Dear Brothers and Sisters!
We have gathered this evening, on the first anniversary of the death of our beloved John Paul II, for this Marian vigil organized by the diocese of Rome. I greet all of you present in St. Peter's Square, beginning with the Cardinal Vicar Camillo Ruini and the auxiliary bishops; I am thinking especially of the cardinals, bishops, priests, men and women religious and all the lay faithful, in particular young people.
Truly the whole city of Rome is gathered here on the occasion of this moving meeting of reflection and prayer. I address a special greeting to Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, metropolitan archbishop of Krakow, connected by video with us, who for many years was a faithful collaborator of the deceased Pope.
A year has already gone by since the death of the Servant of God John Paul II, which occurred almost at this same hour -- it was 9:37 p.m. -- but his memory continues to be particularly alive, as attested by the numerous ceremonies programmed over these days in all parts of the world. He continues to be present in our minds and in our hearts; he continues to communicate to us his love for God and for man; he continues to inspire in all, especially young people, enthusiasm for the good and courage to follow Jesus and his teachings.
How can the evangelical testimony of this great Pontiff be summarized? I will attempt to do so in two words: "fidelity" and "commitment"; total fidelity to God and commitment without reservations to his mission as Pastor of the universal Church. Fidelity and commitment which were even more convincing and moving in the last months, when he embodied in himself what he wrote in 1984 in the apostolic letter "Salvifici Doloris": "suffering is present in the world in order to release love, in order to give birth to works of love toward neighbor, in order to transform the whole human civilization into a 'civilization of love'" (No. 30).
His illness, faced with courage, made everyone pay more attention to human pain, to all physical and spiritual pain; he gave suffering dignity and value, demonstrating that man is not of worth for his efficiency or his appearance, but for himself, because he has been created and loved by God.
With his words and gestures, our beloved John Paul II did not tire of pointing out to the world that, if man allows himself to be embraced by Christ, it does not mortify the richness of his humanity; if he loves Him with all his heart, he will lack nothing. On the contrary, the encounter with Christ makes our life more exciting.
Precisely because he drew ever closer to God in prayer, in contemplation, in love of the Truth and of Beauty, our beloved Pope was able to makes himself a fellow traveler of each one of us and to speak with authority even to those who are distant from the Christian faith.
On the first anniversary of his return to the Father's House, we are invited this evening to take up again the spiritual heritage he left us. He stimulates us, among other things, to live tirelessly seeking Truth, as it alone can satisfy our hearts. He encourages us not to be afraid to follow Christ to take the proclamation of the Gospel to all, which is the leaven of a more fraternal and solidaristic humanity.
May John Paul II help us from heaven to continue on our journey, being docile disciples of Jesus, in order to be, as he himself was fond of saying to young people, "watchmen of the dawn" at the beginning of this third Christian millennium. For this reason, we invoke Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, for whom he always had a tender devotion.
I now address the faithful in Poland who are connected with us.
Let us be united in spirit with the Poles who have gathered in Krakow, Warsaw and other places for the vigil. The memory of John Paul II is alive among us and the sense of his spiritual presence is not dissipated. May the memory of the particular love he felt for his compatriots always be for you the light on the path to Christ. "Remain strong in the faith." I bless you from my heart.
Now I impart from my heart a blessing to all.