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Monday, May 5, 2003


VATICAN CITY, MAY 3, 2003 (VIS) - Today at 9:30 a.m., the Pope left Fiumicino Airport for Madrid, and after traveling 1,362 kilometers in two and a half hours, he landed at Barajas International Airport, beginning his fifth apostolic trip to Spain. There he was welcomed by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, as well as political, civil and religious authorities.

Following brief remarks by the king, the Holy Father addressed the thousands of people who were present. "I desire for everyone the peace that only God, through Jesus Christ, can give us; peace that is a work of justice, truth, love and solidarity; peace that people accomplish only when they follow the dictates of God's law; peace that causes men and nations to feel like brothers, one with the other. Peace be with you, Spain!"

John Paul II recalled that tomorrow he will canonize "five sons and daughters of this land. They knew how to receive Jesus Christ's invitation, 'You will be my witnesses', proclaiming it with their lives and with their deaths. In this historic moment, they are a light along our path to live the faith with courage, to arouse love toward one's neighbor and to pursue with hope the building of a society based on serene coexistence and the moral and human elevation of every citizen."

He continued: "I follow the changes that have taken place in Spain with lively interest. I observe with satisfaction its progress for the well-being of all. The process of a nation's development must be founded on authentic and permanent values that look for the good in each person, subject of rights and duties, from the first instant of his or her existence and reception into the family, and in the successive stages of his or her insertion and participation in the life of society."

The Pope emphasized that "in this critical moment for the consolidation of a united Europe," he wanted to recall the words he used during his first apostolic trip to Spain while urging Europe "with a cry full of love, reminding it of its rich and flourishing Christian roots: 'Europe, find yourself once again. Be yourself. Live your roots! I am sure that Spain will bring the rich cultural and historic legacy of its Catholic roots and values to the integration of a Europe that, from the plurality of its cultures and respecting the identity of its member states, seeks unity based on criteria and principles in which the integral good of its citizens prevail."

"For Spain and the world, I ask the Lord for a peace that may be flourishing, stable and lasting, as well as for co-existence in unity within the varied and marvelous diversity of its peoples and cities."

After the welcome ceremony, the Pope went to the apostolic nunciature in the popemobile.

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