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Pope Saint John Paul II's homily at the Easter Vigil
St Peter's Basilica, Holy Saturday, 14 April 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. The word "death" sticks in one's throat. Although humanity has, during so many generations, become accustomed in a way to the reality of death and to its inevitability, it is, however, something overwhelming every time. Christ's death had deeply entered the hearts of those closest to him, and the consciousness of the whole of Jerusalem. The silence that followed it filled the Friday evening and the whole of the following day of Saturday. On this day, in accordance with Jewish regulations, no one had gone to the place of his burial. The three women, of whom today's Gospel speaks, well remember the heavy stone with which the entrance to the sepulchre had been closed. This stone, of which they were thinking and about which they would speak the next day on their way to the sepulchre, also symbolizes the weight that had crushed their hearts. The stone that had separated the Dead One from the living, the stone that marked the limit of life, the weight of death. The women, who go to the sepulchre in the early morning of the day after the Sabbath, will not speak of death, but of the stone. When they arrive at the spot, they will see that the stone no longer blocks the entrance to the sepulchre. It has been rolled back. They will not find Jesus in the sepulchre. They looked for him in vain! "He is not here; for he has risen, as he said" (Mt 28, 6).

They are to go back to the city and announce to the disciples that he has risen again and that they will see him in Galilee. The women are not able to utter a word. The news of death is spoken in a low voice. The words of the resurrection were even difficult for them to grasp. Difficult to repeat, so much has the reality of death influenced the thought and heart of man.

2. Since that night and even more since that morning which followed it, Christ's disciples have learned to utter the word "resurrection". And it has become the most important word, the central word, the fundamental word in their language. Everything takes its origin again from it. Everything is confirmed and is constructed again: "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 117 (118), 22-24).

It is for this very reason that the paschal vigil — the day following Good Friday — is no longer only the day on which the word "death" is spoken in a low voice, on which the last moments of the life of the Dead Man are remembered: it is the day of a great Awaiting. It is the Easter Vigil: the day and the night of waiting for the Day which the Lord has made. The liturgical content of the Vigil is expressed by means of the various hours of the breviary and is then concentrated with all its riches in this liturgy of the night, which reaches its climax, after the period of Lent, in the first "Alleluia".

Alleluia: the cry that expresses paschal joy!

The exclamation that rings out again in the middle of the night of waiting and brings with it already the joy of the morning. It brings with it the certainty of resurrection. That which, at the first moment, the lips of the women in front of the sepulchre or the mouths of the apostles did not have the courage to utter, now the Church, thanks to their testimony, expresses with her Alleluia.

This song of joy, sung about midnight, announces to us the Great Day. (In some Slav languages, Easter is called the "Great Night" after the Great Night there arrives the Great Day: "the day which the Lord has made").

3. And now we are about to meet this Great Day with the paschal fire lit; we have lit the candle — Christ's light — from this fire and proclaimed beside it the glory of his Resurrection in the song of the Exsultet. Then we entered, by means of a series of readings, the process of the great announcement of creation, of the world, of man, of the People of God; we entered the preparation of the whole of creation for this Great Day, the day of the victory of good over evil, of Life over death. It is not possible to grasp the mystery of the Resurrection except by returning to the origins and following, thereafter, the whole development of the history of the economy of salvation up to that Moment! To the moment in which the three women of Jerusalem, stopping at the threshold of the empty sepulchre, heard the message of a young man dressed in a white robe "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here" (Mk 16, 5-6).

4. That great Moment does not allow us to remain outside ourselves; it compels us to enter our own humanity. Christ not only revealed to us the victory of life over death, but brought us, with his Resurrection, the New Life. He gave us this new life.

Here is how St Paul puts it: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom 6, 3-4).

The words: "(we) were baptized into his death" say a great deal. Death is the water in which Life is won back: the water "welling up to eternal life" (Jn 4, 14). It is necessary to "immerse oneself" in this water, in this Death, in order then to emerge from it as a New Man, as a New Creature, as a new being, that is, vivified by the Power of the Resurrection of Christ!

This is the mystery of the Water, which we bless tonight, which we cause to be penetrated with the "light of Christ, with the New Life; it is the symbol of the power of the Resurrection!

This Water becomes, in the Sacrament of Baptism, the sign of the victory over Satan, over sin; the sign of the victory that Christ won by means of the cross, by means of Death and which he then brings to each of us: "Our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin" (Rom 6, 6).

5. This is the night of the Great Awaiting. Let us wait in Faith, let us wait with all our human being for Him, who at dawn broke the tyranny of death and revealed the Divine Power of Life: He is our Hope."

Papa Giovanni Paolo II's Urbi et Orbi Message on Easter Sunday
15th April 1979, St Peter's Square - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. Resurrexit tertia die..." The third day he rose again...

Today, together with the whole Church, we repeat these words with particular emotion. We repeat them with the same faith with which — on this very day — they were said for the first time. We say them with the same certainty that the eye-witnesses of the events put into this phrase. Our faith comes from their testimony, and that testimony sprang from seeing, hearing, meeting face to face, touching the pierced hands, feet and side.

The witness is born from the Fact; yes, on the third day Christ rose again. Today we repeat these words with all simplicity, because they come from people of simplicity. They come from hearts that love, and that have so loved Christ as to be capable of passing on and preaching nothing else but the truth about him: "Crucifixus sub Pontio Pilato passus et sepultus est": He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried.

Thus sound the words of this testimony. And with the same simplicity of truth they continue to proclaim: "et resurrexit tertia die": and on the third day he rose again.

This truth, upon which as upon the "cornerstone" (cf Eph 2, 20) the whole edifice of our faith is based, today we wish once more to share this faith among us, one with another, as the fullness of the Gospel. We confessors of Christ, we Christians, we the Church. And, at the same time, we wish to share it with all those who are listening to us, with all men and women of good will.

We share it joyfully, for how could we not be filled with joy for the victory of Life over Death? "Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando! Dux vitae, mortuus, regnat vivus!": "The Lord of life was dead; but now he is alive and triumphs" (Easter Sequence).

2. How could we fail to rejoice at the victory of this Christ, who passed through the world doing good to everyone (cf Acts 10, 38) and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom (cf Mt 4, 24), in which is expressed the fullness of the redemptive goodness of God? In it man has been called to the highest dignity.

How can we fail to rejoice at the victory of him who was so unjustly condemned to the most terrible passion and death on the Cross; at the victory of him who first was scourged, buffeted, spat upon, with such inhuman cruelty?

How can we fail to rejoice at the revelation of the power of God alone and at the victory of this power over sin and blindness of men?

How can we fail to rejoice at the victory definitively won by good over evil?

This is the day that the Lord has made!

This is the day of universal hope. The day on which there gather about the Risen One, and join with him, all human sufferings, disappointments, humiliations, crosses, human dignity violated, human life not respected, oppression, repression, all the things that cry aloud: "Victimae paschali laudes immolent Christiani" ("To the paschal victim let there rise today the sacrifice of praise").

The Risen One does not go away from us; the Risen One comes back to us: "But you must go and tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going before you...'" (Mk 16, 7). He comes everywhere, where people most await him, where sadness and fear are greatest, where misfortune and tears are greatest. He comes to shed the light of the Resurrection upon everything that is subjected to the darkness of sin and death.

3. As he enters the Upper Room though the doors were shut, the Risen Christ greets his disciples gathered there with the words: "Peace be with you" (Jn 20, 20).

These are the first words of his Easter message.

How great is the good in this peace that he gives us, and that the world cannot give (cf Jn 14, 27). How closely it is linked with his coming and his mission!

How necessary for the world is his presence, the victory of his Spirit, the order coming from his commandment of love, so that men and women, families, nations, continents may enjoy peace.

Today, this greeting of the Risen One, expressed to the apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem — we wish to repeat this greeting from this place, and address it to wherever it is particularly relevant and particularly awaited.

Peace to you, peoples of the Middle East.
Peace to you, peoples of Africa.
Peace to you, peoples and countries of distant Asia.
Peace to you, brothers and sisters of Latin America.
Peace to you, peoples who live in the various social, economic and political systems!

Peace! As the fruit of fundamental order; as the expression of respect for every human being's right to life, to truth, freedom, justice and love.

Peace of consciences and peace of hearts. This peace cannot be had unless each one of us has the awareness of doing everything in his power so that a life worthy of the children of God will be ensured from the first moment of their existence, for all men and women — brothers and sisters of Christ, loved by him even to death. I am thinking at this moment in particular of all those who are suffering for the lack of what is strictly necessary for existence, of all who suffer from hunger, and above all of the little children, who — in their weakness — are the ones who are specially loved by Christ and to whom is dedicated this year, the International Year of the Child.

May the Risen Christ inspire in all, Christians and non-Christians, sentiments of solidarity and of generous love towards all our brothers and sisters in need.

4. "Surrexit Christus, spes mea!"

Dear brothers and sisters! How eloquent for us is this Day, which speaks with all the truth of our origin. Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone of our whole edifice (cf Eph 2, 20-21). This stone, cast aside by the builders, that God has bathed in the light of the Resurrection, is placed at the very foundation of our faith, our hope and our love.

It is the primary reason of our vocation and of the mission that each one of us receives at Baptism.

Today we wish to rediscover this vocation, to claim this mission for our own once more. We wish to let it be filled once more with the joy of the Resurrection. We wish to bring it near to all people, to those who are near and to those who are far off.

Let us share this joy with one another. Let us share it with the apostles, with the women who were the first to bring the news of the Resurrection.

Let us unite ourselves with Mary. "Regina caeli, laetare!"

Man can never lose the hope of the victory of good. May this day become for us today the beginning of a new hope.

Pope St John Paul II's homily at Mass with a group of deacons
Cappella Paolina, Saturday 21 April 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Beloved Deacons,
In the long history of the Church in Rome, it is not uncommon to see deacons associated with the Pope in his ministry, to see deacons at his side. And this morning it is a special joy for me to be surrounded by deacons, as our relationship – our ecclesial communion – reaches its highest expression in the holy Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Our joy is enhanced – yours and mine – to have some of your parents and loved ones here. All of us have come to celebrate the Paschal Mystery and to experience the love of Jesus. His is a sacrifical love – a love that moved him to lay down his life for his people and to take it up again. And his sacrifical love has been manifested with great generosity in your parents’ lives, and today it is very fitting that they should have an exceptional moment of serenity, satisfaction and wholesome pride.

As we commemorate the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, we want to remember on his various appearances, as recorded in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles: his appearance to Mary Magdalen, to the two disciples, to the Eleven Apostles. We renew our faith – our holy Catholic faith – and we rejoice and exult because the Lord is truly risen, alleluia! Today more than ever before we are conscious of what it means to be an Easter people and to have the alleluia as our song. The Easter event – the bodily Resurrection of Christ – pervades the life of the whole Church. It gives to Christians everywhere strength at every turn in life. It makes us sensitive to humanity with all its limitations, sufferings and needs. The Resurrection has immense power to liberate, to uplift, to procure justice, holiness and joy.

But for you, Deacons, there is a particular message this morning. By your sacred ordination you have been associated in a special way with the Gospel of the Risen Christ. You have been commissioned to render a special type of service, diaconia, in the name of the Risen Lord. During the ordination ceremony the Bishop told each of you: "Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach." And so you are called to take the words of the Acts of the Apostles to heart. In the rank of deacons you have come to be associated with Peter and John and all the apostles. You support the apostolic ministry and share in its proclamation. Like the Apostles you too must feel impelled to proclaim by word and deed the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. You too must experience the need to do good, to render service in the name of the crucified and Risen Jesus – to bring God’s word into the lives of his holy people.

In today’s first reading we hear the Apostles saying: "We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard". And you are called, in the obedience of faith, to proclaim on the basis of their testimony – on the basis of what has been handed down in the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – the great mystery of the Risen Lord, who in his very act of Resurrection communicates eternal life to all his brethren because he communicates his victory over sin and death. Remember that the Apostles by their proclamation of Resurrection were a challenge and reproof to many.

And they were warned never to speak again in the name of the Risen Jesus. But their response was immediate and clear: "You must judge whether in God’s eyes it is right to listen to you and not to God." And in this obedience to God they found the supreme measure of paschal joy.

It is the same for you, the new deacons of this Easter season. As the associates of the Bishops and priests of the Church, your discipleship will be marked by these two characteristics: obedience and joy. Each, in his own way, will show the authenticity of your lives. Your ability to communicate the Gospel will depend on your adherence to the faith of the Apostles. The effectiveness of your diaconia will be measured by fidelity of your obedience to the mandate of the Church. It is the Risen Christ who has called your, and it is his Church that sends you forth to proclaim the message transmitted by the Apostles. And it is the Church that authenticates your ministry. Be confident that the very power of the Gospel you proclaim will fill you with the most sublime joy: sacrifical joy, yes, but the transforming joy of being intimately associated with the Risen Jesus in his triumphant mission of salvation. All the disciples of Jesus, and you deacons by a special title, are called to share the great joy of Easter experienced by the Blessed Mother. At the Resurrection of her Son, we see Mary, "Mater plena sanctae laetitiae" become for us all "Causa nostrae laetitiae". Obedience and joy are thus the true expressions of your discipleship. They are also conditions for your effective ministry and, at the same time, gifts of God’s grace, consequences of the great mystery of the Resurrection that you proclaim.

Dear Deacons, I speak to you as sons, brothers and friends. This is a day of special joy. But let it also be a day of special resolve. In the presence of the Pope, under the gaze of the Apostles Peter and Paul, in the company of Stephen, before the witness of your parents, and in the communion of the universal Church, renew again your ecclesial consecration to Jesus Christ, whom you serve and whose life-giving message you are called to transmit in all its purity and integrity, with all its exigencies and in all its power. And know that it is with immense love that I repeat to you and to your brother deacons throughout the Church the words of this morning’s Gospel, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: "Go out to the whole world, proclaim the Good News to all creatures".

This is the meaning of your ministry. This will be your greatest service to humanity. This is your response to God’s love. Amen."

Papa San Juan Pablo II's homily at Mass on 2nd Sunday of Easter
Church of San Pancrazio, Rome, Sunday 22 April 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. Today we are following in the footsteps of a very ancient tradition of the Church, that of the second Sunday of Easter, called "in Albis", which is bound up with the liturgy of Easter and particularly with the liturgy of the Easter Vigil. This Vigil, as its modern form also testifies, represented a great day for catechumens, who, during the night of Easter, by means of Baptism, were buried together with Christ in death in order to be able to walk in a new life, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father (cf Rom 6, 4).

In this inspiring image St Paul presented the mystery of Baptism. Catechumens received Baptism precisely during the Easter Vigil, as we had the fortune to have also this year, when I conferred Baptism on children and adults from Europe, Asia and Africa.

In this way the night that precedes Easter Sunday truly became for them the "Passover", that is, the Passing from sin, that is from the death of the spirit, to Grace, that is to the life of the Holy Spirit. It was the night of a real Resurrection in the Spirit. As a sign of sanctifying grace, the newly baptized received during baptism a white garment, which distinguished them for the whole octave of Easter. On this day of the second Sunday of Easter, they took off this garment; hence the very ancient name of this day: Sunday "in Albis depositis".

In Rome this tradition is linked with the church of San Pancrazio. Today the liturgical station is precisely here. We have therefore the fortune to unite the pastoral visit to the parish with the Roman tradition of the station of Sunday in Albis.

2. Today, therefore, we wish to sing together here the joy of the Resurrection of the Lord, as the liturgy of this Sunday announces:

O give thanks to the Lord for he is good;
for his mercy is eternal..
This is the day made by the Lord
let us rejoice and be glad in it (Ps 118, 1,24).

We wish also to give thanks for the indescribable gift of faith, which descended into our hearts and is constantly strengthened by means of the mystery of the Resurrection of the Lord. Today St John speaks to us of the greatness of this gift in the powerful words of his letter: "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 Jn 5, 4-5).

So we thank the Risen Christ with great joy in our hearts, since he lets us participate in his victory. At the same time, we humbly beseech him that we may never cease being participants, through faith, in this victory: particularly in difficult and critical moments, in moments of disappointment and suffering, when we are exposed to temptation and ordeals. Yet we know what St Paul writes: "Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim 3, 12). And here furthermore are St Peter's words: "... you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 1, 6-7).

3. The Christians of the first generations of the Church prepared for Baptism for a long time and thoroughly. This was the period of the catechumenate, the traditions of which are still reflected today in the liturgy of Lent. These traditions were alive when adults prepared for Baptism. To the extent to which the tradition of the Baptism of children developed, the catechumenate in this form was to disappear. Children received Baptism in the faith of the Church, for which the whole Christian community (which today is called the "parish") vouched, and in the first place their own family. The renewed liturgy of the Baptism of children highlights this aspect even more. The parents with the godfathers and godmothers profess the faith, make the baptismal promises and assume responsibility for the Christian education of their child.

In this way, the catechumenate is transferred in a way to a later period, to the time of gradual growth to adulthood; then the baptized person must acquire, from those closest to him and in the parish community of the Church, a living awareness of that faith, in which he has already become a participant, by means of the grace of Baptism. It is difficult to call this process "catechumenate" in the original and proper sense of the word. Nevertheless it is the equivalent of the authentic catechumenate and must take place with the same earnestness and zeal as the one that once preceded Baptism. The duties of the Christian family and of the parish converge on this point. On this occasion today, we must realize this with special clarity and strength.

4. The parish, as the fundamental community of the People of God and as an organic part of the Church, has its origin, in a certain sense, in the Sacrament of Baptism. It is in fact the community of the baptized. Through every Baptism, the parish participates in a special way in the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. Its whole pastoral and apostolic effort aims at making all parishioners aware of Baptism, so that they may persevere in Grace, that is, in the state of Sons of God and enjoy the fruits of Baptism in personal life as well as in family and social life. Therefore renewal of the awareness of Baptism is particularly necessary. It is a fundamental value in the life of the parish to undertake this catechumenate — which is now lacking in preparation for Baptism — and realise it in the various stages of life.

The function of catechesis consists precisely in this, that it must extend not only to the period of the elementary school but also to higher education and to later periods of life.

In particular sacramental catechesis is indispensable as preparation for First Communion and Confirmation; preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage is of great importance.

Furthermore baptized man, if he wishes to be a Christian "in works and in truth", must, in his existence, remain constantly faithful to the catechesis received. It tells him, in fact, how he must understand his Christianity and put it into practice in the various phases and environments of professional, social and cultural life. This is the vast task of catechesis for adults.

Thanks be to God, this activity is developing widely in the life of the diocese of Rome and in your parish.

5. I am informed, indeed, of the many initiatives of catechesis and associative life, which the parish institutions are carrying out with the help of many Religious Families, male and female, and various ecclesial movements. Special mention should be made of the well-deserving Discalced Carmelite Fathers, who dedicate their energies to the spiritual progress of this parish of San Pancrazio. The large population concentrated here is just another stimulus for an indefatigable apostolic commitment. My word, therefore, becomes exhortation and encouragement both to the parish leaders that they may continue joyfully in their service to the Body of Christ, and to all the members of the Community, that they may always and consciously find in it the best place for their growth in the faith, hope and love which they are to testify to the world.

6. On Sunday "in Albis", the liturgy of the Church makes us witnesses of the meeting of the Risen Christ with the apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. The figure of the Apostle Thomas and Christ's talk with him always attracts our particular attention. The Risen Master allows him in a unique way to recognize the signs of his passion and thus convince himself of the reality of the Resurrection. Then St Thomas, who at first did not want to believe, expresses his faith in the words: "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20, 28). Jesus replies: "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (Jn 20, 29).

Through the experience of Lent, touching in a certain sense the signs of Christ's Passion, and through the solemnity of his Resurrection, may our faith be renewed and strengthened — and also the faith of those who are mistrustful, lukewarm, indifferent and distant.

And may the blessing that the Risen Christ uttered in his conversation with Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe", remain with us all!"

Papa San Giovanni Paolo II's words at the Regina Caeli
2nd Sunday of Easter, 22nd April 1979, St Peter's Square - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "Noli esse incredulus sed fidelis". "Do not be faithless, but believing" (Jn 20, 27).

Today, on the Sunday of the octave of Easter, we re-read these words spoken by the Risen Christ to the Apostle Thomas. These words are, in a certain sense, Christ's programme with regard to man.

Here is the programme of faith: "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (Jn 20, 29).

We know why Thomas objected. Because he did not wish to accept the truth about the resurrection. In this he was no different from the other apostles. They had similar difficulties. So much did the fact of the resurrection go beyond the awareness of the necessity of death and the irreversibility of its consequences. This fact was so difficult to imagine. Man, once dead, no longer lives among men, no longer finds his place among the living on earth.

The apostles accepted the reality of the resurrection on the basis of their experience of the Risen Christ. They saw him, after death, among the living on earth, in Jerusalem, in the Cenacle, at the sea of Galilee. And they had to arrive at the conclusion that "Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him" (Rom 6, 9), that he has become the Master of death.

Thomas was not with them, when Christ came to the Upper Room for the first time. That is the reason for his reservation. His "faithlessness". He asked for a proof. The same proof that the others had already had. Their words and news were not enough for him. He wanted to convince himself personally. He wanted to see with his own eyes. He wanted to touch. And he obtained what he asked for. His "faithlessness" became in a certain sense an additional proof.

Attention has been called to this fact more than once. The very fact that he refused to believe the news of the resurrection contributed, indirectly, to giving the news even greater certainty. "Faithless" Thomas became, in a certain way, an extraordinary spokesman of the certainty of the Resurrection. As St Gregory the Great affirms, "the faithlessness of Thomas was far more useful to us, as regards faith, than the faith of the other disciples. While, in fact, Thomas is brought back to faith through touch, our mind is consolidated in faith with the overcoming of all doubt. Thus the disciple, who doubted and touched, became a witness to the reality of the Resurrection" (XL Homiliarum in Evangelia lib III, Hom 26, 7).

2. We live in an age in which the human intellect and its achievements are greatly appreciated; and therefore also scientific-consultative methods; its critical attitude. And it is also an age in which the principle of freedom defines the fundamental right of the human person to behave according to his well-founded convictions. Hence freedom of conscience and religious freedom.

The figure of Thomas has become, in a way, particularly close to contemporary man.

The Declaration of the Second Vatican Council on religious liberty stresses with all firmness that neither faith nor non-faith can be forced on man; that this must be a responsible and voluntary act.

"One of the key truths in Catholic teaching, a truth that is contained in the word of God and constantly preached by the Fathers, is that man's response to God by faith ought to be free, and that therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act. Man, redeemed by Christ the Saviour and called through Jesus Christ to be an adopted son of God, cannot give his adherence to God when he reveals himself unless, drawn by the Father, he submits to God with a faith that is reasonable and free. It is therefore fully in accordance with the nature of faith that in religious matters every form of coercion by men should be excluded. Consequently, the principle of religious liberty contributes in no small way to the development of a situation in which men can without hindrance be invited to the Christian faith, embrace it of their own free will and give it practical expression in every sphere of their lives" (Dignitatis Humanae, 10).

All that however does not cancel Christ's programme in any way. It is not equivalent to indifference. It does not mean indifferentism. All that proves only that religion draws its importance, its own greatness, both from the objective Reality to which it refers, that is, from God revealing truth and love, and also from the subject: from man, who confesses it in a way worthy of himself: in a rational, responsible and free way.

Today is the day on which the Church lays special emphasis on this maturity of faith.

Christ says to Thomas "noli esse incredulus sed fidelis". "Do not be faithless, but believing". Faith is and never ceases to be Christ's programme with regard to man. "Blessed are those who have not seen (like Thomas)... and yet believe (Jn 20:29).

Faith is the purpose of the Resurrection. It is its fruit."

After recitation of the Reginal Caeli

"In the last few days, on the occasion of the Easter festivities, a great many messages reached me from all over the world: persons of all ages, position and language, even children, wished to express to the Pope their joy, their thanks, their good wishes. I was really moved by so many voices that I was able to listen to in this way through the letters and telegrams that reached me. The Secretariat of State is doing everything in its power to answer one and all in the shortest possible time. But right now, and publicly, I wish to say to all those who wrote to me a heartfelt and sincere "thank you": thank you for your affection; thank you for your delicate gesture; thank you especially for your prayers, which I return with all my heart, wishing you Christ's serenity and peace!"

Pope St John Paul II's homily at the Beatification of Fr Jacques Laval CSSP & Fr Francis Coll OP on 3rd Sunday of Easter
St Peter's Square, 29 April 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Alleluia! Alleluia! On this third Sunday of Easter, our paschal joy is expressed as an echo of the overflowing joy of the Apostles who, from the first day, recognized the Risen Christ. On Easter evening, "Jesus himself stood among them". "See my hands and my feet". He invited them to touch him with their hands. And he ate before their eyes (cf Lk 24, 36, 39, 40). Amazed and slow to believe, the Apostles recognized him at last: "The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord" (Jn 20, 20; Lk 24, 41); and now no one could take their joy from them (cf Jn 16, 22), or silence their testimony (cf Acts 4, 20). A few moments earlier, the hearts of the disciples of Emmaus were also burning within them while Jesus spoke to them on the way and explained the Scriptures to them; and they too had recognized him at the breaking of bread (cf Lk 24, 32, 35).

The joy of these witnesses is ours, dear Brothers and Sisters, we who share their faith in the Risen Christ. Glorified at the Father's side, he never stops drawing men to him, communicating to them his life, the Spirit of holiness, while preparing a place for them in the Father's house. Today, as it happens, this joy finds a striking confirmation, since we are honouring two admirable Servants of God who, last century, shone forth on our earth with Christ's holiness and whom the Church is now able to declare blessed, to propose them to the special veneration and imitation of the faithful: Father Laval and Father Coll, whom we must now contemplate.

2. It is plainly impossible to point out here all the outstanding events in the life of Father Jacques-Désiré Laval, or all the Christian virtues that he practised to a heroic degree. Let us remember at least what characterizes this missionary, with regard to the mission of the Church today.

It is in the first place his concern to evangelize the poor, the poorest, and, in this case, his "dear Blacks" of the island of Mauritius, as he used to call them. A Frenchman, he had begun by practising medicine in a little town in his native diocese, Evreux, but gradually the call to an undivided love of the Lord, which he had repressed for a certain time, made him abandon his profession and worldly life. "Once I am a priest, I will be able to do more good", he explained to his brother (cf biography).

A late vocation at St Sulpice Seminary in Paris, he was at once put in charge of service of the poor; then, as parish priest of the little Norman parish of Pinterville, he shared all he had with those in want. But on learning of the misery of the Blacks of Africa and the urgency of bringing them to Christ, he obtained permission to leave for the island of Mauritius, with the Vicar Apostolic, Mons. Collier. For 23 years, until his death, he dedicated all his time, used all his strength, and gave his whole heart to the evangelization of the inhabitants: indefatigably, he listened to them, catechized them, and made them discover their Christian vocation. He often intervened also to improve their medical and social condition.

His tenaciousness is an unending source of astonishment for us, especially in the discouraging conditions of his mission. But, in his apostolate, he always went to what is essential.

The fact is that our missionary left behind him innumerable converts, with a firm faith and piety. He was not given to sensational ceremonies, fascinating for these simple souls but with no lasting effect, or to flights of oratory. His educational concern was closely integrated in life. He was not afraid to return continually to the essential points of Christian doctrine and practice, and he admitted to baptism or to first communion only people prepared in little groups and tested. He took great care to put at the disposal of the faithful little chapels scattered over the island. Another remarkable initiative which links up with the concern of many pastors today: he had recourse to collaborators, men and women, as leaders of prayer, catechists, people who visited and advised the sick, others in charge of little Christian communities, in other words poor people, evangelizers of the poor.

What is, then, the secret of his missionary zeal? We find it in his holiness: in the gift of his whole person to Jesus Christ, inseparable from his tender love of men, especially the most humble among them, to whom he wishes to give access to the salvation of Christ. Whatever time was not dedicated to the direct apostolate, he spent in prayer, especially before the Blessed Sacrament, and he continually combined acts of penance which deeply impressed his confreres, in spite of his discretion and his humility.

He himself often expresses regret for his spiritual lukewarmness — let us say rather the feeling of his aridity: is it not precisely that he sets the greatest store by fervent love of God and Mary, to which he wishes to initiate his faithful? That is also the secret of his apostolic patience: "It is on God alone and on the protection of the Blessed Virgin that we depend" (Letter of 6 July 1853, cf biography). What a magnificent confession! His missionary spirituality had been, from the beginning, in keeping with the general pattern of a young Religious and Marian Institute, and he was always anxious to follow its spiritual requirements, in spite of his solitude and geographical distance: the Society of the Sacred Heart of Mary, of which he was one of the first members alongside the famous Father Libermann, and which was soon to merge with the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. The apostle, now as in the past, must in the first place maintain spiritual vigour within himself: he bears witness that he is continually drawing from the Source.

That is a model for evangelizers today. May he inspire missionaries and, I venture to say, all priests, who have in the first place the sublime mission of proclaiming Jesus Christ and training the Christian life!

May he be, in a special way, the joy and stimulus of all religious of the Holy Spirit, who have never stopped implanting the Church, particularly in the land of Africa, and are at work there so generously!

May the example of Father Laval encourage all of those who, in the African continent and elsewhere, are endeavouring to build a brotherly world, free of racial prejudices! May Blessed Laval be also the pride, the ideal and the protector of the Christian community of the island of Mauritius, so dynamic today, and of all Mauritians!

To these wishes, I am happy to add a very cordial greeting to the Delegation of the Government of Mauritius, as well as to that of the French Government, which have come to take part in this ceremony.

3. A second reason for ecclesial joy is the beatification of another figure that the Church wishes to exalt today and propose to the imitation of the People of God: Father Francis Coll. A new glory of the great Dominican family and equally so, of the diocesan family of Vich. A religious and at the same time a model apostle—for a large part of his life—in the ranks of the clergy of Vich.

He is one of those ecclesial personalities who, in the second half of the nineteenth century enrich the Church with new religious foundations: a son of Spain, of Catalonia, which has produced so many generous souls that have bequeathed a fruitful heritage to the Church.

In our case, this heritage takes on concrete form in a magnificent and tireless work of evangelical preaching, which culminates in the foundation of the Institute known today as that of the Dominican Sisters of "La Anunciata", present here in large numbers to celebrate their Father Founder, together with so many members of the various organizations which the Congregation has created.

We cannot now present a complete portrait of the new Blessed, an admirable mirror—as you have been able to observe from a reading of his biography—of heroic human, Christian and religious virtues, which make him worthy of praise and of imitation in our earthly pilgrimage. Let us merely speak briefly about one of the most striking aspects of this ecclesial figure.

What impresses us most on approaching the life of the new Blessed, is his evangelizing zeal. At a very difficult moment of history, in which social upheavals and laws persecuting the Church make him leave his convent and live permanently outside it, Father Coll, abstracting from human, sociological or political considerations, dedicates himself completely to an astonishing task of preaching. Both during his parish ministry, especially in Artés y Moya, and in his later phase as an apostolic missionary, Father Coll shows himself to be a true catechist, an evangelizer, in the best line of the Order of Preachers.

In his innumerable apostolic journeys over the whole of Catalonia, through memorable popular missions and other forms of preaching, Father Coll—Mosén Coll, for many—is a transmitter of faith, a sower of hope, a preacher of love, peace and reconciliation among those whom passions, war and hatred keep divided. A real man of God, he lives fully his priestly and religious identity, made a source of inspiration in the whole of his task. To those who do not always understand the reasons for certain attitudes of his, he answers with a convinced "because I am a religious". This deep consciousness of himself is what directs his incessant labour.

An absorbing task, but which does not lack a solid foundation: frequent prayer, which is the driving power of his apostolic activity. On this point, the new Blessed speaks very eloquently. He himself is a man of prayer; he wishes to introduce the faithful along this way (it is enough to see what he says in two publications of his "La hermosa rosa" and "La escala del cielo"). It is the path he points out in the Rule to his daughters, with stirring words, which because of their relevance today I also make my own: "The life of Sisters must be a life of prayer... For this reason I urge you over and over again, beloved Sisters: do not abandon prayer".

The new Blessed , recommends various forms of prayer to sustain apostolic activity. But there is one that he prefers and which I have particular pleasure in mentioning and emphasizing: prayer while contemplating the mysteries of the rosary; that ladder to go up to heaven", composed of mental and vocal prayer which "are the two wings that Mary's Rosary offers Christian souls". A form of prayer which the Pope too practises assiduously and in which he calls upon all of you to join, particularly in the coming month of May, dedicated to the Virgin.

I conclude these reflections in Spanish with a greeting to the Authorities who have come for these celebrations in honour of Father Coll. I invite everyone to imitate his example of life, but especially the sons of St Dominic, the clergy and particularly you, Dominican Sisters of the "Anunciata", who have come from Spain, Europe, America and Africa, where your religious activity is carried on generously.

4. The hope that I express this morning, in conclusion, is that today's double Beatification will serve to strengthen and promote commitment in the catechetical action of the whole Church. It is well known that the subject of the Fourth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, held here in Rome in the autumn of 1977, was precisely that of catechesis. The Synod Fathers — of whom I too was one — tackled and studied this theme of prime importance for the life and action of the Church at all times. They stressed the urgency of giving catechesis definite priority over other initiatives, less essential even if, perhaps, more spectacular, because the absolutely original aspect of the Church's mission is carried out by means of it. A mission — they confirmed — which involves all members of the People of God, though in their different functions, and commits them to a continual search for adequate methods and means for a more and more effective transmission of the Message.

The thought of the Synod Fathers was addressed particularly to the young, of whose growing importance in the world of today they were well aware: for amid uncertainties and disorders, excesses and frustrations, the young represent the great force on which the fate of future humanity depends. The question that troubled the Synod Fathers is precisely this one: how to get this multitude of young people to have a living experience of Jesus Christ, and that not just in the dazzling encounter of a fleeting moment, but by means of a knowledge of his person and his message that becomes more complete and luminous every day? How to kindle in them the passion for the Kingdom, which he came to inaugurate, and in which alone the human being can find full and satisfying self-fulfilment?

To answer this question is the most urgent task of the Church, today. It will depend on the generous commitment of all, if a testimony of the "message of this salvation" (Acts 13, 26) can be offered to the new generations, a testimony capable of winning over the minds and hearts of the young, and of involving their will in those concrete choices, often costly ones, which the logic of the love of God and of one's neighbour demands. It will depend above all on the sincerity and the intensity with which families and communities are able to live their adherence to Christ, if the young are effectively reached by the teachings imparted to them at home, in school, in church.

Let us pray, therefore, the new Blesseds to be close to us with their intercession and to guide us to personal and deep experience of the Risen Christ, who will make our hearts also "burn within us", as the hearts of the two disciples burned on the way to Emmaus, while Jesus "talked to them on the road and opened to them the Scriptures" (cf Lk 24, 32). In fact, only he who can say: "I know him" — and St John has warned us that anyone who does not live according to Christ's commandments cannot say this (cf. Second Reading) — only he who has reached an "existential" knowledge of him and of his Gospel, can offer others a credible, incisive and enthralling catechesis.

The lives of the two new Blesseds are an eloquent confirmation of this. May their example not be proposed to us in vain"

Papa San Giovanni Paolo II's words at the Regina Caeli
3rd Sunday of Easter, 29th April 1979, St Peter's Square - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dearest Sisters and Brothers!
1. Today is a day of great joy for all of us: the Church venerates two new Blesseds, Francis Coll and Jacques Laval. We have just concluded the solemn liturgical celebration, but I wish to return briefly to these two exceptional figures of witnesses to the Gospel and true catechists in the past century.

Francis Coll, a son of Spain, born at Gombreny, a village in the Catalan Pyrenees, followed the Dominican vocation. When convents were closed by law in that nation in 1835, Francis, always remaining faithful to his religious consecration, dedicated himself to preaching the Word of God, by means of "popular missions", and in August 1856 he founded at Vich the Dominican Sisters of "La Anunciata," devoted particularly to the education of girls. His death took place in April 1875.

Jacques Laval is a son of France. Born at Croth, in the diocese of Evreux, in 1803, he was first a doctor; and after inner struggles, he surrendered finally to the call of Jesus. Ordained priest in 1838, in 1841 he left for the island of Mauritius to dedicate himself to the evangelization of the Blacks, becoming a Mauritian with the Mauritians. He remained in that island — until his death, which took place in 1864 — for 23 years, dedicated entirely to proclaiming the Gospel in the midst of difficulties insuperable on the human plane.

The whole Church is exultant at the gift that God has made to her of two other intercessors in heaven and two examples to imitate on earth. It is joy also for me, because Francis Coll and Jacques Laval are the first Blesseds of my Pontificate and I hope they will be my protectors.

At this exalting moment I wish to express hearty congratulations to the two Religious Families, the Dominican Order — which is also celebrating today the liturgical feast of St Catherine of Siena, Patroness of Italy — and the Congregation of the Holy Spirit; they have enriched the Church and humanity and have the immense satisfaction and privilege of having given us these sons of theirs. Nor can we forget to address our thought of sincere applause to their respective countries. Spain and France, and for Blessed Laval also to his country of adoption, the island of Mauritius. The Church is particularly grateful to them for this further, magnificent gift of holiness.

The personalities of the two Blesseds, so rich, so open to the spiritual and social problems of the modern world, urge us to renew the hope that all peoples, all nations, all continents may be represented in the earthly Church, on her way to her fulfilment in eternal glory.

2. The two new Blesseds propose to us again concretely the ever existing urgency of Jesus' mandate to the apostles and to the Church: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mk 16, 15). In October 1977 the fourth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dealt with the subject of "Catechesis in our time with particular reference to children and the young". At the end of the work, the Synod Fathers asked Pope Paul VI of venerated memory to address a document on catechesis to the universal Church. This document should be published within the next few months. Furthermore the Synod Fathers sent to the whole People of God a pressing “Message", in which — among other things — they addressed their grateful appreciation to catechists, in these terms: "There are a great many, men, women, young people and even children, who dedicate their time — generally without any material recompense — in such a serious work as that of constructing the Kingdom of God. Filled with true charity they form Christ Jesus in men's hearts".

3. Mindful of those words, today I address an affectionate greeting, due thanks and keen encouragement to all catechists in the world: priests, religious, Sisters, lay men and women. I turn especially to parents, who are and must be the first, irreplaceable and exemplary catechists of their children, bringing them up from childhood to knowledge and love of Jesus and his message of industrious faith, active charity, universal solidarity. I address a special memory also to all those who teach Religion in schools, in the various countries, and, in particular, in Italy.

My good wishes and my Apostolic Blessing to everyone present!

I would now like to turn my gaze to Africa, a land of so many consolations and hopes for the Church and the Gospel. I am thinking in particular of Uganda, in these days of sore trial for that nation. Let us pray together for the people of Uganda, that they may find tranquillity again, that there will be no more bloodshed, and that there may prevail the spirit of reconciliation, of which the Church would certainly like to be a sign and, if possible, also an instrument. It is a Church alive and fervent with faith, which has grown luxuriantly owing to the commitment of its bishops, priests and faithful, and to the contribution of so many missionaries, also priests, religious men and women and lay people, come to bring Christ's message. It was learned just yesterday that a Combonian missionary, Father Lorenzo Bono, has been killed. Let us pray for him. Let a special thought go to all workers of the Gospel, uniting ourselves to the feelings of their distant families, which are often in pain and anguish, in these days, because of uncertainty about the fate of their dear ones, and invoking from the Lord that they may get reassuring news of all, even from those territories in which communications are temporarily interrupted."

Pope St John Paul II's homily on 5th Sunday of Easter
Church of St Stanislaus, Rome, Sunday 13 May 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "Abide..."

The word that returns most often to the readings of the Fifth Sunday of Easter is precisely the word "Abide". With this word the Risen Christ, who had first been crucified, invites us to union with him. He presents this union to us, referring to a simile drawn from nature. The branches abide in the vine and for this reason they bear fruit. They cannot do so by themselves if this organic link with life is lacking. In this case, in fact, there remain only twigs and dry branches, which are gathered and thrown into the fire because they can be used as firewood. On the other hand, as long as the branches remain in the vine and draw vital sap from it, they continue to be real branches. They form one thing with the vine, and are even defined together with it with the same name "the vine". They also deserve careful attention on the part of the owner, the vine-dresser. He looks carefully at every vine and every branch. If it bears fruit, "he prunes it" so that it may bear even more fruit. But if it does not bear fruit, be removes it so that it will not get in the way, and with its fruitless growth weigh down the vine.

Here is the simile. Here is the image in which there is expressed everything that had to be said in order that listeners would understand, first, the mystery of spiritual abiding in Christ; and then, the duty of producing spiritual fruits owing to the fact that they abide in him. For this reason the Master uses at the same time descriptive language, showing the branch that remains in the vine, and normative language, giving an order; he says, "Abide in me".

2. In what does this "abiding" in Jesus Christ consist? St John himself, who included the allegory of the vine in his Gospel, offers an answer to this question as author of the first letter. "All who keep his commandments abide in him (God), and he (God) in them (1 Jn 3, 24). This is the most evident proof. The Apostle almost seems to hesitate in answering the question whether it is possible to establish and ascertain, with the help of some criterion that is verifiable, such a mysterious reality as the abiding of God in man, and thanks to that of man in God. This reality is strictly spiritual in nature. Is it possible to ascertain, to check this reality? Can man have the certainty that his works are good, pleasing to God and that they serve His abiding in his soul? Can man be certain that he is in a state of grace?

The Apostle answers this question as if he were answering himself and us at the same time: "If our hearts do not condemn us, we have trust in God" (1 Jn 3, 21), the confidence that we abide in him and he in us. And if, on the contrary, we have reasons for apprehension, it is from active love of God and of our brothers that we will be able to derive interior certainty and peace, we will be able to "reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything" (cf Jn 3, 20). Then, too, we do not cease to be in the range of his love, which can change the state of sin into the state of grace and make our heart once more the dwelling of the Living God. All that is necessary is our response to his love. Love is the principle of divine Life in our souls. Love is the law of our abiding in Christ: of the branch in the vine.

Let us love therefore — writes St John — let us love "in deed and in truth" (1 Jn 3, 18). Let our love prove its interior truth by means of deeds. Let us defend ourselves from the appearances of love .... "let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our hearts before him" (1 Jn 3, 18-19). "And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us" (Jn 3, 24).

3. We meet today, dear Brothers and Sisters, in St Stanislaus' church in Rome, to begin here the Jubilee of the ninth centenary of the martyrdom of the Patron Saint of Poland. It has started simultaneously in Krakow, in conformity with the very ancient Polish tradition: 8 May and the Sunday that immediately follows this day.

Every year this solemnity is the patronal feast of the Church in Poland, and it is closely connected with the solemnity of the White Mountain Queen of Poland, on 3 May, and the feast of St Wojciech (Adalbert) at Gniezno, on 23 April.

In the current year, which, in relation to the ninth centenary of St Stanislaus' death has been proclaimed a jubilee year, this annual feast of Krakow constitutes the beginning of the religious celebrations, the culminating point of which will occur on the Sunday of Pentecost and that of the Holy Trinity.

The usual gathering of Poles in the Roman church of St Stanislaus recalls the important initiative of the Servant of God, Cardinal Stanislaw Hozjusz, Bishop of Warmia and one of the Pope's legates at the Council of Trent, who founded St Stanislaus' hospice precisely at this church. The Cardinal, born at Krakow, and therefore spiritually sensitive to the cult of the Holy Bishop and Martyr, wished to designate this place in Rome with his name, as if to remind his fellow-countrymen in Poland that they had remained in union with St Peter's See for many centuries and must continue to remain in this union. In the year 1579 that great ecclesiastic, a close friend of St Charles Borromeo, died and was buried in St Mary's church in Trastevere, that is, in the church which is at present the titular church of the Cardinal Primate of Poland. The fourth centenary of Cardinal Hozjusz' death coincides with St Stanislaus' jubilee this year.

4. Dear Fellow-countrymen! The eloquence of the facts is such that it enables us to understand more adequately and deeper the Gospel of the vine and the branches this Sunday. We have abided in union with Christ since the time of the baptism of Poland and this spiritual union finds its visible expression in union with the Church. In the year of the anniversary of St Stanislaus' death we owe special gratitude to God who accepted the sacrifice of martyrdom and strengthened by this martyrdom our link with Christ living in the Church. And just as, during the millennium, we have sung the "Te Deum" of thanks for the gift of faith and Baptism, so we should sing the "Te Deum" this year in thanksgiving for the strengthening of what started with Baptism.

And at the same time, meditating on the allegory of the vine and the branches, let us look at the figure of that "Owner" who cultivates the vineyard, looks after every branch solicitously and, if need be, "prunes" it so that it may bear more fruit. Understanding the meaning of this allegory more deeply, let us pray ardently and humbly, each one for himself and everyone for everyone, that the branches will not wither and break away from Christ, who is the vine. Let us pray that the forces of irreligiousness, the forces of death, may not be more powerful than the forces of life, the lights of faith. We have lit up over Poland and over Poles all over the world the lights of the millennium.

Let us all strive so that they will not be extinguished. May they shine in the same way as the cross of Stanislaus of Szczepanow shines in the hearts and consciences of Poles, indicating to them Christ who continues to be "the way, the truth and the life" (Jn 14, 6) of men and of nations.

And now I would like to add a word for the Italian-speaking faithful gathered here.

We meet in this Roman church of St Stanislaus to begin the jubilee of the ninth centenary of the martyrdom of the Patron Saint of Poland, as is happening simultaneously also in Krakow. While I thank you, I invite you, too, to participate with your thoughts, and above all with your prayer, in this great solemnity of the Poles. St Stanislaus' church, in which we are gathered, represents in itself a concrete link between the city of Rome and my land of origin, since it was founded by the Polish Cardinal Stanislaus Hozjusz, a native of Krakow and Bishop of Warmia, Papal Legate at the Council of Trent, who died in 1579.

Beloved, today we read at Mass the Gospel of the vine and the branches. Jesus' word is for us all a stimulus to remain united with the Lord, separated from whom we are, on the contrary, destined to wither and die. Poland, since the time of its baptism, has remained faithfully united with Christ and expresses this spiritual bond of faith and love by means of visible integration in the Church. Well, on the anniversary of St Stanislaus' martyrdom, we must thank the Lord particularly, who accepted the sacrificial offering of that life, by means of which our link with Christ living in the Church was strengthened.

Let us pray together, therefore, humbly and ardently, that we may never separate from the Lord, and that the forces of faith and life in the Lord may never succumb to those of disbelief and death. Amen.

Praised be Jesus Christ."

Papa San Giovanni Paolo II's words at the Regina Caeli
5th Sunday of Easter, 13th May 1979, St Peter's Square - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. At our meeting today to recite the Regina Caeli together, I wish to address the thoughts and hearts of all those present, and of those following us on the radio or television, towards the boys and girls who this year receive Holy Communion for the first time.

I often happen to meet them, either at the Wednesday audiences or on the occasion of pastoral visits to parishes, or in other circumstances. They approach with the simplicity of children, they speak of their forthcoming meeting with Jesus and they prepare for that. So many times they add that they would like to receive First Communion from my hands. These boys and girls are so dear to me; I think they are dear in the same way to all of us. Above all they are dear to the Lord Jesus, who seems to address to them the words that we listen to in the Gospel today: "I am the vine, you are the branches" (Jn 15, 5). "Abide in me and I in you" (Jn 15, 4).

How important in a young Christian's life is the moment in which he is granted for the first time the privilege of becoming a participant in this sacrament in which Jesus has left us the visible sign of his divine love; that love with which he loved us all the way to death; love which is the greatest expectation of the human heart. When true love takes root in man's heart it becomes his greatest strength and power. It is this love that Christ grafts onto the hearts of children through the Sacrament of his Body and of his Blood.

2. How important it is for all of us that the expectation of so many children's hearts should be fulfilled in this year and that First Communion should constitute for them the beginning of that strength of spirit to which they will be able to refer during the whole of their lives. Precisely for this reason, preparation for First Communion, which in the first place consists in a sound catechesis, is so opportune and necessary. Going back to my personal pastoral experiences as a young priest, I remember how much joy we found in this preparation, carried out together with the children and their parents. I remember my first parish priest, an elderly man, who always spoke of it as a pastoral task of particular importance. Nor can it be otherwise: by preparing children for First Communion we introduce them into the principal mystery of Christian life. We show how great is man's dignity, his immortal soul, if it can become God's house. Finally, we form in them delicacy of conscience when preparation for First Communion is accompanied by an examination of conscience, repentance of sins, and the sacrament of Penance.

3. His family must take part responsibly in this important event in the young Christian's life. Let them all, but particularly the parents, give the utmost importance to what is essential, that is, to the strictly religious and sacramental content, so that the exterior aspect of First Communion may not overshadow this content. Let the exterior aspect, necessary though it is, be kept within fitting limits.

First Communion must take place in the parishes of the children who receive it. For, if it is a very important event for the life of a Christian family, it is so also for the life of the parish. Since these parishes are part of the diocese of Rome, it has been arranged, in agreement with the Cardinal Vicar, that all children who have made First Communion in their respective parishes will meet in St Peter's Square, on 14 June next, the feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord.

I desire to celebrate Holy Mass and distribute Communion to a group of their representatives on the day which is consecrated in a particular way to the Eucharist. Thus, while the aspiration of those children who would have liked to receive First Communion from me, is satisfied in a way, it will be possible to realize, at the same time, a solemn manifestation of eucharistic worship, in obedience to the liturgical dignity of that stupendous day.

I commend to the prayers of all those present and of all Rome the children who approach the Lord's Table for the first time this year; and I commend even more all children in the world who, for any reason, cannot enjoy the happiness of receiving Jesus sacramentally.

4. My thought then returns again to the dear land of Uganda, from which unfortunately there continues to arrive painful news of losses of so many human lives, including those of some missionaries killed by violence and hatred while they were carrying out their mission as Gospel workers and servants of brothers. So please join in my prayer for the souls of the victims, and implore from the Lord courage for all those who are still in danger and difficulties. I am close, too, to all the families of missionaries, religious and lay, who are living in concern and anguish. May God grant Uganda and the whole of Africa better days, so that the desired complete development of those peoples may take place in peace and brotherhood."

After the recitation of the Regina Caeli

"Con vivo piacere saluto il gruppo di giovani del Movimento “Pro Sanctitate”, convenuti a Roma per il Primo Raduno Nazionale. Su di voi, carissimi, invoco copiosi favori dello Spirito Santo, perché la vostra fede sia luminosa, la vostra speranza salda, la vostra carità ardente, in maniera da poter offrire a tutti una testimonianza autentica e lieta di come il Cristianesimo va compreso e vissuto.

Ai numerosi “tifosi” della squadra calcistica del Milan, presenti in questa Piazza, porgo il mio vivo grazie congiunto a un cordiale saluto e ad una paterna esortazione. È cosa che vi fa onore il sostenere sempre, nella buona e nella cattiva sorte, la squadra del cuore! Questo atteggiamento sportivo richiami ed ispiri in voi un altro genere di passione, molto interessante e nobile: il tifo per le cause della bontà, della giustizia e della verità. Sarete così uomini completi, degni della compiacenza del Signore e della stima degli uomini."

Pope St John Paul II's homily on 6th Sunday of Easter
with the Polish Bishops in honour of Saint Stanislaus
St Peter's Basilica, Vatican, Sunday 20 May 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. The joy of the paschal period in today's liturgy dictates to the Church words of deep gratitude. Here they are: "The love of God was made manifest among us" (1 Jn 4, 9); it was manifested in this way, that "God sent his only Son into the world" (1 Jn 4, 9). He sent him "so that we might live through him" (1 Jn 4, 9). He sent him "to be the expiation for our sins" (1 Jn 4, 10).

This sacrifice offered on Calvary on Good Friday was accepted. And lo, Easter Sunday brought us the certainty of Life. He who broke the seals of the sepulchre, has manifested victory over death, and thereby revealed the Life that we have "through him" (1 Jn 4, 9).

All men are called to this Life: "God shows no partiality" (Acts 10, 34; cf Gal 2, 6). And the Holy Spirit, as St Peter testifies in today's liturgy, "fell on all who heard the word" (Acts 10, 44).

The work of salvation carried out by Christ has no limit in space and in time. It embraces one and all. Christ died on the cross for everyone and he won for everyone this divine life, the power of which was manifested in his Resurrection.

With this great and universal paschal joy of the Church I wish to associate particularly, today, the joy of my fellow-countrymen, the joy of the Church in Poland, expressed by the presence of so many pilgrims from all over the world, with the illustrious and beloved Primate of Poland, Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, with the Archbishops and Metropolitans of Krakow and of Wrocklaw, and with so many representatives of the Polish Episcopate. Celebrating this Holy Sacrifice, we wish to express to God, who is "Love", our gratitude for the millennium of faith and of permanence in union with the Church of Christ; for the millennium of the presence of Poland, always faithful, at this spiritual centre of catholicity and universality which is St Peter's tomb in Rome as also this splendid Basilica built above it.

2. This reason for our special joy is, this year, the jubilee of St Stanislaus, Bishop of Krakow and Martyr. 900 years have passed since this Bishop was martyred at the hands of King Boleslaus. He exposed himself to death by reprimanding the king and asking him to change his attitude. The royal sword did not spare the Bishop; it reached him during the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice and immediately deprived him of life. The precious relic of the Bishop's skull, on which the signs of the mortal blows are still visible, has remained a witness to this moment. This relic, preserved in a valuable reliquary, has for many centuries been carried in the month of May from Wawel cathedral to St Michael's Church at Skalka (Rupella) when the solemnities of St Stanislaus are celebrated in Poland. Throughout the centuries, there took part in this procession the Polish kings, successors of that Boleslaus who had inflicted death on the Bishop and who, according to tradition, ended his life as a converted penitent.

The liturgical hymn in honour of St Stanislaus was sung as the solemn hymn of the nation which took the martyr as its own patron saint. Here are the first words of this hymn: "Gaude mater Polonia / Prole fecunda nobili / Summi Regis magnalia / Laude frequenta vigili."

3. Today I, the first Pope in the history of the Church of the race of Poles and Slav Peoples, celebrate with gratitude the memory of St Stanislaus, since up to a few months ago I was his successor in the episcopal see at Krakow. And together with my fellow-countrymen gathered here, I express deep gratitude to all those who take part in this solemnity here. In two weeks I shall have the fortune to go on a pilgrimage to Poland, to thank God there for the millennium of faith and of the Church which is founded on St Stanislaus as on a cornerstone. And even if this event is, above all, the jubilee of the Church in Poland, we express it also in the dimension of the universal Church; because the Church is a large family of peoples and nations, all of which have contributed, at the right moment, to make it a community by means of their own testimony and their own gift, and have thus highlighted their participation in universal unity. Such a gift was, 900 years ago, the sacrifice of St Stanislaus.

The Holy Father then delivered section 4 in Polish

4. Beloved Fellow-Countrymen!
We cannot present the great mystery of St Stanislaus after 900 years, other than by going back to the Paschal Mystery of Christ. This is what the Polish Hierarchy did in their pastoral letter to prepare all Poles at home and abroad for the celebration of his feast this year.

Here is an extract from the letter: "Dwelling prayerfully on his martyrdom, we have still in mind the recent Lenten memories of the Passion of our Saviour Jesus Christ: 'he who wishes to be my disciple, let him take up his cross... and follow me'. If, beginning from Christ's death and resurrection, the Lord's disciples will shed their blood down the ages as a witness of faith and love, this will always happen with him and in him. He will draw them to his pierced Heart, and thus they will be united in the death of Christ.

The cross in the life of St Stanislaus and his death as a martyr were essentially very close to the Cross and Death of Jesus Christ on Calvary. They had a similar significance. Christ defended the truth of his Father, the Eternal God; he defended the truth of himself as the Son of God. He defended man who, indeed, lives under the temporal power, but lives in an incomparable manner under the power of God..

Let the fruit of this holy jubilee be our fidelity to the Blood which Christ shed on Calvary for man's salvation, for the salvation of each one of us; fidelity to Christ's Mother of Sorrows; fidelity to the sacrificial martyrdom of St Stanislaus."

I read these words with great joy. They give us the best understanding of what is proclaimed in the liturgy of St Stanislaus: vivit Victor sub gladio! In fact, the weighty sword fell on the head of the Bishop of Krakow, Stanislaus of Szczepanowa in 1079 and terminated his life. Beneath that sword the bishop was conquered. Boleslaus had removed his adversary. The great drama had concluded within the short frontiers of time. However, even though the power of the sword had achieved its end at the moment of the sacrifice of death, yet the power of the Spirit, which is Life and Love, began to reveal itself and to grow at the same time. It irradiated from his relics, embracing the peoples of the lands of the Piasts and uniting them. Even though the sword and its material power can kill and destroy, yet only love, the power of the Spirit, can vivify and unite in a lasting way. And love is manifested even in death — "when a man lays down his life for his friends" (Jn 15, 13).

We rejoice that today we can praise God for the revelation of his love in the death of
St Stanislaus, servant of the Eucharist and servant of the People of God in the see of Krakow.

5. The Church in Poland is grateful to Peter's See, because in 966, by means of Baptism, it accepted the nation into the great community of the family of Peoples.

The Church in Poland is grateful to St Peter's See, because the Bishop and Martyr St Stanislaus of Szczepanow was raised to the altars and proclaimed Patron Saint of the Poles.

The Church in Poland, by means of the memory of its Patron Saint, confesses the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of Love, which is stronger than death.

With this confession it wishes to serve the men of our time. It wishes to serve the Church in her universal mission in the modern world. It wishes to contribute to the strengthening of faith, hope and charity not only in its people, but also in the other nations and peoples of Europe and of the whole world.

Let us pray with the deepest humility at St Peter's tomb that this witness and this readiness to serve may be accepted by means of the Church of God, which is "all over the earth". Let us pray with humility, love and with the deepest veneration that they may be accepted by Almighty God, the Searcher of our hearts and Father of the time to come."

Papa San Giovanni Paolo II's words at the Regina Caeli
6th Sunday of Easter, 20th May 1979, St Peter's Square - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Our usual Sunday prayer has a special reason and content today. In Rome, in fact, this Sunday is dedicated to the "Day for new churches and for religious assistance for the outskirts of the City", and I do not want to pass over this important occasion in silence. Yes, Rome, too, needs new churches, in spite of the many ancient ones already present in its historic centre. It is the new districts which call for these constructions, so that they may be living centres of both Christian and human aggregation. As I said in my visit to the Parish of St Joseph's at Forte Boccea in March, "the material edifice in which the faithful people gathers to listen to the Word of God and take part in celebration of the divine ministries, represents a factor of primary importance for the growth and consolidation of that community of faith, hope and love that the parish is" (18 March 1979).

I exhort all of you, therefore, to take this problem to heart, both in prayer and with concrete help."

"2. I wish to greet once again my fellow-countrymen who have come from so many countries and continents where they live as emigrants. Brothers and sisters, since your arrival is in connection with the jubilee of St Stanislaus, allow me to re-read part of the Apostolic Letter which, for this jubilee, I sent to the whole Church in Poland. St Stanislaus has left a special heritage, "namely, it is this heritage of faith, hope, and charity which gives to the life of man and of society its full and proper motivation. It is a heritage of firmness and courage in professing the truth which shows the dignity of the human mind. It is a heritage of concern for the salvation and the spiritual and temporal good of our neighbour, namely, of the citizens of the same nation and of all whom we should constantly serve. It is also a heritage of freedom in a spirit of service and of the giving of oneself out of love. Finally, it is the wonderful tradition of relationship and unity. The facts show that Saint Stanislaus, his cult, and especially his canonization, contributed to the accomplishment of this in the history of the Polish people."

The Church in Poland "desires to remind herself of this heritage. She wants to ponder it more deeply and to draw from it some considerations relevant to daily living. She needs help in fighting against apathy, crime and sin, which are especially detrimental to the good of the Poles and of Poland. She seeks through a renewed protection to strengthen the faith and hope in the future, so that she may carry out her mission and serve the salvation of one and all."

3. As you already know, the Plenary Session of the Italian Episcopal Conference ended here in Rome on the day before yesterday. It was an important event, because it had as its central subject of reflection and discussion the very topical problem of vocations and seminaries. Everyone knows the recent phenomenon of crisis, which has touched these areas. However, we read with pleasure in the final Document of the Italian Bishops that there are "consoling signs of regained vitality within our Churches" (n 1), that "groups and movements of generous faith and strong pastoral commitment are flourishing" (ibid) and that there can be noted "some revival of vocations for the priesthood, such as to hold out the hope that the uneasiness from which Italian Churches, and not only they, have suffered in the last few years, is being overcome" (n 2).

Let us thank the Lord for this, and commit ourselves even more to offering our responsible contribution in this field. Moreover, let us not forget to pray, as we do now with "Regina Caeli laetare", that these germs of hope may be made more and more fertile and fruitful by divine grace."

Feast of the Ascension 1979

Pope St John Paul II concelebrated Holy Mass at the English College in Rome.

Easter Week VII - World Day of Social Communications

Papa San Giovanni Paolo II celebrated Holy Mass in St Peter's Basilica at which there were episcopal ordinations.