Vatican City (Fides Service) – On Sunday 18 May, the Holy Father Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in St Peter’s Square and canonised four new saints, two Poles and two Italians; Bishop Józef Sebastian Pelczar, founder of of the Congregation of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; Urszula Ledóchowska (Julia Maria), foundress of the Ursuline Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Agony; Maria De Mattias, foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters Adorers of the Blood of Christ; Virginia Centurione, widow Bracelli, foundress of the Sisters of Our Lady of Refuge on Mount Calvary.
At the beginning of the Mass, on behalf of all those present and many more, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Dean of the College of Cardinals, wished the Pope “many happy returns” on his 83 birthday. “I wish to speak not only on behalf of all present but also for countless people all over the world, well beyond the boundaries of the Christian world – said Cardinal Ratzinger -. I would like to express to you our gratitude for all that you do and to assure you of our prayers. May the Lord accompany you every day, may he be the light of your way…to believe and to love: this is the programme of your pontificate. Tirelessly you show us the face of Christ, the face of the merciful God. Tirelessly you lead us, starting out from Christ, to overcome the forces of hated and prejudice that separate and to break down the walls the separate us. Starting again from Christ you help us find the way that leads to salvation. For this we wish to offer you heartfelt thanks. May the Lord reward you as he rewards his faithful servants. Most Holy Father, ad multus annos!”.
During his homily the Holy Father recalled the words of the Gospel acclamation (“He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit” Jn 15,5) and he said: “The words Jesus addressed to his Apostles at the end of the Last Supper are a moving call also to us, his disciples of the third millennium. Only those who remain intimately united with Him – grafted onto him like a branch on the vine – receive the vital lymph of his grace. Only those who live in communion with God produce abundant fruits of justice and holiness. Witnesses of this fundamental Gospel truth are the Saints whom I had the joy of canonising on this, the fifth Sunday of Easter.”
At the end of the Mass, before the singing of the Regina Caeli hymn, the Pope greeted those present. “I wish to express deep gratitude to each of you for the sentiments of affection you have manifested on my birthday – the Pope said - . In a special way I thank Cardinal Josef Ratzinger who at the beginning of the Mass, voicing shared sentiments, and offered me birthday wishes on behalf of everyone. A deferential and grateful thought also to the authorities, who wished to be present for this occasion. I would like my “thank you” to extend to all who in many ways sent messages of good wishes and attestations of esteem. I ask each and all to continue to pray that God will help me to carry out faithfully the mission he entrusted to me.” After greeting the Polish faithful and authorities present for the canonisation, the Pope concluded: “Grateful for the gift of life, once again today to Mary I entrust ideally my existence and the ministry to which Providence has called me. I ask you dear brothers and sisters to sustain me with your prayers” SL (Fides Service 19/5/2003 EM lines 42 Words: 612)