Vatican City (Fides Service) – “When I began my pontificate I asked for help: “Help the Pope and all who want to serve Christ and, with the power of Christ, serve man and all humanity!” As I give thanks to God for these twenty five years imbued with his mercy, I feel the need especially to express my gratitude to you brothers and sister in Rome and all over the world who have responded and continue to respond in different ways to my request for help…I beg you dearest brothers and sisters, never cease in this great work of love for the Successor of Peter. I ask you once again: help the Pope and all who wish to serve Christ, to serve every person and all mankind” said Pope John Paul II during his homily of the Mass in Thanksgiving for 25 years of Pontificate in St Peter’s Square at 6pm on Thursday 16 October. The Pope concelebrated with all the Cardinals of the Church, numerous bishops and also the parish priests of his own diocese of Rome. Personalities present included 20 official government delegations and a crowd of more than 100,000 people gathered around the Successor of Peter to thank God for the gift of Pope John Paul II.
“During the conclave, through the College of Cardinals, Christ said to me, as he once said to Peter on the shores of Lake Galilee: “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21,16) – the Pope said in his homily -. Every day on my heart I hear the same conversation between Jesus and Peter. In the spirit I see the loving gaze of the Risen Christ. Although aware of my human fragility, he encourages me to reply with confidence like Peter: “Lord you know everything, you know that I love you” (Jn 21,17). And then he asks me to shoulder the responsibility which he himself has entrusted to me”.
“Down through the centuries the successors of the Apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit, have continued to gather Christ’s flock together and to lead it towards the Kingdom of heaven, aware that the ability to shoulder such a weighty responsibility comes only ‘through Christ, in Christ with Christ’” the Pope continued. “This was the awareness I myself had when the Lord called me to carry on the mission of Peter in this beloved city of Rome at the service of the whole world…This is why, from the very first day, I have always urged you: “Do not be afraid to welcome Christ and welcome his power!. I say once again with emphasis: Open the doors, indeed throw open wide the doors to Christ! Let yourselves we guided by Him! Trust in his love!”.
John Paul II ended his homily by presenting to Jesus Christ, “the only Shepherd of the Church” the fruits of these twenty five years of ministry and service of the flock entrusted to his pastoral care and renewing, through Our Lady, his act of trust in the Lord: “I renew to you, through the hands of Mary, beloved Mother, the gift of myself, present and future: may everything be done according to your will. Supreme Shepherd stay with us, so that with you we may walk safely towards the house of the Father. Amen!”
At the beginning of the Mass Cardinal Jozef Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, addressed the Holy Father: “In these 25 years you, as Vicar of Christ in the Apostolic Succession, have travelled the world tirelessly not only across every geographical boundary to carry to men and women the Gospel of the love of God who became Man in Jesus Christ; you have also crossed the continents of the spirit, often distant one from the other and opposite one to the other, to bring strangers closer, make friends of the distant, and make room in the world for the peace of Christ. You have spoken to young and old, to the rich and the poor, to the powerful and the humble…You have announced the will of God fearlessly, even there where it goes against the thought and will of men…Today the whole Church thanks you for the service you have rendered in these 25 years”. SL (Fides Service 17/10/2003 EM lines 41 Words: 622)