VATICAN CITY, OCT 16, 2003 (VIS) - Late this afternoon, during a solemn Mass attended by 50,000 faithful and concelebrated by members of the College of Cardinals, archbishops and bishops, and pastors of Roman parishes, John Paul II relived with emotion the moment of his election 25 years ago today. Among the prominent personalities in attendance were Carlo Azeglio Ciampi and Aleksander Kwasniewski, respectively presidents of Italy and Poland, and members of official delegations from 17 countries.
In St. Peter's Square, decorated with flowers and plants from Holland, the Pope confessed that 25 years ago he had "experienced divine mercy in a special way." Recalling the moment in which the cardinals elected him to succeed Peter, he said: "How could I not tremble, humanly speaking? How could such a big responsibility not weigh on me? It was necessary to rely on divine mercy so that when asked, do you accept?, I could answer ...: I accept."
"Today, dear brothers and sisters, I am happy to share with you an experience that has extended to a quarter of a century. Every day the same dialogue between Jesus and Peter takes place within my heart. ... God, even though He is aware of my human fragility, encourages me to respond with faith like Peter: 'Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you'. He then invites me to assume responsibilities that He has entrusted to me."
The Holy Father emphasized that since the beginning of his pontificate, his "thoughts, prayers and actions have been inspired by one desire: to bear witness that Christ, the Good Shepherd, is present and operates in His Church." The Pope reiterated the call of 25 years ago: "Do not be afraid to welcome Christ and to accept His authority! Today I repeat with vigor: Open, open wide the doors to Christ! Let yourselves be guided by Him! Trust in His love!"
After giving thanks to God for these 25 years, John Paul II said he also wanted to thank the faithful from around the world for their prayers in response to his petition to help and sustain him from the beginning of the pastoral ministry, and he urged them not to "interrupt this great work of love by the Successor of Peter. I ask you once again: help the Pope, and all those who want to serve Christ, to serve man and all of humanity!"
In conclusion, he invoked the Lord, saying: "Forgive the evil committed and multiply the good: everything is Your work and only to You is glory due. ... I renew, through the hands of Mary, Beloved Mother, the gift of myself, of the present and of the future: may everything be done according to Your will. Supreme Pastor, stay with us, so that we may proceed safely with You to the house of the Father."
At the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, congratulated the Pope on everyone's behalf. "As the apostle Paul," he said, "you can say that you have never sought to praise with words, nor have you sought honor from men, rather you have taken care of your sons and daughters like a mother. ... You have endured criticism and insults, provoking nevertheless gratitude and love, and breaking down the walls of hate and distrust. We can say today how you have put yourself wholeheartedly at the service of the Gospel. ... Like Paul, you bear suffering in order to complete in your earthly life, through the body of Christ which is the Church, what is lacking in Christ's afflictions."
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