Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Holy Father's Mass in Krakow

Yesterday morning, two million people attended a Mass presided by Benedict XVI in Krakow's Blonie Park; the same place where, yesterday afternoon, he had met with young people. Polish cardinals and bishops, as well as members of the papal entourage, concelebrated with the Pope.

A representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, Fr. Igor Vyzhanov, also participated in the Eucharistic celebration, conveying to the Pope the greeting of Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all the Russias.

In his homily, the Holy Father referred to the recent Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord: "Here on earth," he said, "we are called to look up to heaven, to turn our minds and hearts to the inexpressible mystery of God. We are called to look towards this divine reality, to which we have been directed from our creation. For there we find life's ultimate meaning."

After recalling how John Paul II used to celebrate Mass in the same park during his apostolic trips to his homeland, Benedict XVI said: "From here he could see Krakow and all Poland. ... Krakow, the city of Karol Wojtyła and of John Paul II, is also my Krakow! Krakow has a special place in the hearts of countless Christians throughout the world who know that John Paul II came to the Vatican Hill from this city, from Wawel Hill, 'from a far country,' which thus became a country dear to all."

The Pope then indicated that he had wished to come to Poland and to Krakow "to breathe the air of [John Paul II's] homeland. I wanted to see the land where he was born, where he grew up and undertook his tireless service to Christ and the Universal Church. ... Here I wish to ask God to preserve that legacy of faith, hope and charity which John Paul II gave to the world, and to you in particular."

Going on to refer to theme of his Polish pilgrimage, "Stand firm in your faith," the Holy Father pointed out that "faith is a deeply personal and human act, an act which has two aspects. To believe means first to accept as true what our mind cannot fully comprehend." Secondly, it means to "trust in a person, no ordinary person, but Jesus Christ Himself. What we believe is important, but even more important is the One in Whom we believe."

"When Karol Wojtyła was elected to the See of Peter in order to serve the Universal Church, your land became a place of special witness to faith in Jesus Christ. You were called to give this witness before the whole world. This vocation of yours is always needed, and it is perhaps even more urgent than ever, now that the Servant of God has passed from this life. Do not deprive the world of this witness!"

"Strengthened by faith in God, devote yourselves fervently to consolidating His Kingdom on earth, a Kingdom of goodness, justice, solidarity and mercy. I ask you to bear courageous witness to the Gospel before today's world, bringing hope to the poor, the suffering, the lost and abandoned, the desperate and those yearning for freedom, truth and peace. By doing good to your neighbor and showing your concern for the common good, you bear witness that God is love."

Pope Benedict concluded his address by calling on the faithful "to share with the other peoples of Europe and the world the treasure of your faith, not least as a way of honoring the memory of your countryman, who, as the Successor of St. Peter, did this with extraordinary power and effectiveness."

Following the Mass and before praying the "Regina Coeli," the Pope addressed some remarks to young people who, during his meeting with them yesterday, "expressed their adherence to Christ and to the Church.

"Yesterday," he said, "you presented me with the gift of your book of testimonies: 'I do not take them, I am free of drugs.' I ask you now as your father: remain faithful to this promise. It is a question of your lives and your freedom. Do not let yourselves fall victim to this world's illusions."

At the end of the ceremony, Benedict travelled by car to the archbishop's palace in Krakow where he had lunch. In the early afternoon, he bid farewell to the staff and collaborators of the archbishop, and to some of the members of the organizational committee of his visit.

Read the full text of the homily here

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