On Saturday, 11 March, the Holy Father received a number of groups
who had come as pilgrims to Rome during the Holy Year: members of
Rotary International, a pilgrimage from the Italian Diocese of
Pitigliano-Sovana-Orbetello, the Archdiocesan College of Pius XI in Desio,
Italy, members of various parishes in Rieti, Bologna and Urbania, Italy, and
a pilgrim group from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, USA. The Pope said to
them: "You will pass through the Holy Door, symbolizing the
conversion which must mark the life of every Christian. May this passage
confirm your commitment to turn away from sin and to accept the gift of new
life which the Lord constantly offers through the ministry of the
Church". Here is a translation of his Italian address and the text of
his English greetings.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. I am pleased to receive all of you who have come to celebrate your
Jubilee at the beginning of this Lenten season. I first extend a cordial
greeting to you, the members of Rotary International. You have crossed the
threshold of the Holy Door in the Vatican Basilica and have taken part in
the Jubilee Eucharist at which Cardinal Paul Poupard presided; he is here
with us and I greet him with affection. Welcome, dear brothers and sisters!
I offer each of you my embrace of peace.
The celebration of the Jubilee is an excellent occasion for you to meditate
on the importance and value of being Christians at the dawn of the third
millennium. It would certainly be interesting to ask yourselves what Paul
Percy Harris, your founder, would do today and how he would organize the
association he founded almost 100 years ago. At the dawn of the 20th century
he became aware of the loneliness experienced by people in large cities and
sought to remedy it by developing an ever wider network of friendly
relations between individuals on the basis of understanding, sympathy and
peace among peoples.
You have tried to continue this service, dear Rotarians, in an ever more
concerned and attentive way in the almost 100 years of your club's
existence. The time we are living in is full of potential and challenge. As
we cross the threshold of the third millennium of the Christian era, the
Church once again presents the ancient and ever new Gospel message to
everyone. You Rotarians, who want to be generous heralds and fearless
witnesses of Christ, should also dedicate yourselves to giving hope to
people today, to overcoming loneliness, indifference, selfishness and evil.
2. I now greet you, dear faithful who are taking part in the pilgrimage of
the Diocese of Pitigliano-Sovana-Orbetello, and especially your Pastor,
Bishop Mario Meini, who has led you on this faith journey. Through him, I
would like to offer my encouragement and blessing to the priests, religious
and faithful of the Diocese.
You come from the native land of my predecessor, Pope St Gregory VII. May
his example and teachings spur you to love Christ and his Church with
renewed intensity. He lived in a historical period when Christians were
shaken by serious internal difficulties and the pernicious influence of the
worldly spirit. Faced with the mentality of the time, he strove to the very
end, even during his sad exile, so that the "Holy Church, Bride of God,
our lady and our mother, would once again be adorned with her original
splendour as she was for many centuries, and always be free, chaste and
catholic" (PL 148, 709). He preached and bore witness that holiness is
the vocation of every member of the ecclesial community.
Times have undoubtedly changed. However, the invitation to all believers to
fulfil God's will eagerly and to be steadfast in bearing consistant witness
to the faith is still timely.
Dear brothers and sisters, the Holy Year not only offers us a special grace,
but also powerful reasons for converting mentalities and lives to a deeper
fidelity to Christ and a more intense love for the Church. Returning home,
continue in your commitment to Christian witness. Think of yourselves as
active members in building the Christian community: "Always be
prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope
that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence" (1 Pt 3: 15).
Always have trust: Christ has overcome the world (cf. Jn 16: 33)!
3. Next I extend a cordial greeting to the director and members of the
Archdiocesan College of Pius XI in Desio. Dear friends, you have wished to
make your Jubilee pilgrimage at the beginning of the important season of
Lent, in which Christ's call to conversion becomes more insistent.
May the Jubilee pilgrimage be a favourable occasion for you to live deeply
this year of great spiritual riches. The Holy Door, through which you have
passed, signifies God's unlimited kindness to those who want to turn to him
and follow the path of holiness. Through this Door and through the Church's
ministry, believers are prompted to draw more abundantly from the
inexhaustible treasures of divine grace.
This is the gift and message for you too: may Christ, the Way, the
Truth and the Life renew you so that you will be his friends and witnesses
in the world. Be faithful to him and spread hope, joy and love among your
brothers and sisters.
4. May these same sentiments also be in your hearts, dear faithful from the
parishes of Rieti, Bologna and Urbania. I greet you all affectionately and,
in addressing you, I would also like you to take the Pope's best wishes back
to your families, friends and brethren in faith. In returning to your homes,
may you be able to communicate to everyone you meet the enthusiasm of a
renewed faith and the commitment to active charity. May Mary, Mother of the
One who began the new time of salvation and whom we call upon with trust,
accompany you and always keep you under the mantle of her protection.
With these sentiments, I cordially impart a special Blessing to you, which I
willingly extend to your families and your communities.
To the pilgrimage group from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, USA, the Holy
Dear Cardinal Bevilacqua,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am pleased to welcome you to Rome on the occasion of the Jubilee
Year Pilgrimage of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Your visit to the
Eternal City is undertaken, like every pilgrimage, in a spirit of prayer and
a desire for interior renewal. Here in Rome you will venerate the tombs of
the Apostles Peter and Paul and pray in the catacombs and the monuments
which Christians in every age have erected to the memory of the martyrs and
saints. I pray that this pilgrimage will help to deepen your faith in the
Lord Jesus Christ and increase your love for his Body, the Church.
As an important part of your Jubilee visit, you will pass through the Holy
Door, symbolizing the conversion which must mark the life of every
Christian. May this passage confirm your commitment to turn away from sin
and to accept the gift of new life which the Lord constantly offers through
the ministry of the Church. This is the great goal of the Jubilee year:
to increase in the hearts of all the baptized "a true longing for
holiness, a deep desire for conversion and personal renewal in a context of
ever more intense prayer and solidarity with our neighbours, especially the
most needy" (Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 42).
I commend you to Sts Peter and Paul, the holy patrons of the Archdiocese of
Philadelphia, to St John Neumann and to Bl. Katharine Drexel, whom I will
shortly have the honour of canonizing. Upon you and your families I
cordially invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.