The decision of your forefathers to accept the Catholic faith, the faith proclaimed and professed by the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, has played a central role in the religious and civil history of your Nation. “This was an event of capital importance for the Croats, because from that moment on they accepted with alacrity the Gospel of Christ as it was disseminated and taught in Rome. The Catholic faith has permeated the national life of the Croats”: so wrote your Bishops (Pastoral Letter, 16 March 1939) in preparation for the Jubilee of the evangelization of the Croats, planned for 1941 and then postponed because of events which overwhelmed your country, Europe and the entire world.


5. This is a heritage which makes demands of you. In the Letter I wrote for the Year of Branimir, one of the stages of the celebration of the Jubilee of the Baptism of your People, I told you: “By your perseverance you have entered into a sort of pact with Christ and his Church: you must remain faithful to this pact, all the more so when the times are in contrast with it. Remain always as you were in that glorious year of 879” (15 May 1979). Today I repeat these words to you, in the new social and political climate which has emerged in your country.


The Lord has not failed to enlighten your days with hope (cf. Ephesians 1:17-18), and now, with the coming of freedom and democracy, it is legitimate to expect a new springtime of faith in this land of Croatia. The Church is now able to employ many means of evangelization and can approach all sectors of society. This is a promising moment which Providence is offering to this generation in order to proclaim the Gospel and bear witness to Christ Jesus, the one Saviour of the world, and thus to contribute to the building of a society worthy of man.


Concretely, the Christians of Croatia are today called to give a new face to their country, above all by committing themselves to the renewal in society of the ethical and moral values undermined by past totalitarianism and by the recent violence of war. This is a task which calls for the expenditure of much energy and a firm and persevering will. It is an urgent task, for without values there can be no true freedom or true democracy. Fundamental among these values is respect for human life, for the rights and dignity of the person, as well as for the rights and dignity of peoples.


The Christian knows that he has a very specific responsibility, together with his fellow-citizens, for the destiny of his own country and for the promotion of the common good. Faith is always a commitment to the service of others, of one’s fellow-citizens, considered as brothers and sisters. And there can be no effective witness without a deeply-lived faith, without a life anchored in the Gospel and imbued with love for God and for neighbour, following the example of Jesus Christ. For the Christian, to bear witness means to reveal to others the marvels of God’s love, working in union with one’s brothers and sisters to build that Kingdom of which the Church is “on earth, the seed and first growth” (Lumen Gentium, 5).


6. “If you had faith...”. “We are unworthy servants...”. Faith does not seek the extraordinary, but strives to be useful by serving our brothers and sisters in the light of the Kingdom. Its grandeur lies in humility: “We are unworthy servants...”. A humble faith is an authentic faith. And an authentic faith, even if it is as small “as a grain of mustard seed”, can make extraordinary things happen.


How many times has this happened in this land! May the future prove once more the truth of these words of the Lord, so that the Gospel may continue to bear abundant fruits of holiness among generations yet to come.


May the Lord of history accept the petitions which rise up today from this land of Croatia. May he hear the prayer of all those who profess the holy Name of God and ask to persevere in fidelity to the great baptismal Covenant of their forefathers.


Sustained by faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, may this people build its future on its ancient Christian roots, dating to the time of the Apostles!


Praised be Jesus and Mary!



Sunday 7 October 2001


1. "The just man shall live by faith" (Habakkuk 2,4):  with these words full of confidence and hope the prophet Habakkuk spoke to the people of Israel at a particularly troubled moment of its history. Reread in the light of the mystery of Christ by the Apostle Paul, the Church can use the same words to express a universal principle:  it is by faith that man is open to the salvation that comes to him from God. 


Today we have the joy of contemplating this great mystery of salvation actualized in the new Blesseds. They are the just who by their faith live close to God in eternity:  Ignatius Maloyan, bishop and martyr; Nikolaus Gross, father of a family and martyr; Alfonso Maria Fusco, priest; Tommaso Maria Fusco, priest; Emilie Tavernier Gamelin, religious woman; Eugenia Picco, virgin; Maria Euthymia Üffing, virgin. These illustrious brothers and sisters, now elevated to the glory of the altars, knew how to translate their invincible faith in Christ into an extraordinary experience of love for God and service to their neighbour.

Archbishop Ignatius Maloyan, who died a martyr when he was 46, reminds us of every Christian's spiritual combat, whose faith is exposed to the attacks of evil. It is in the Eucharist that he drew, day by day, the force necessary to accomplish his priestly ministry with generosity and passion, dedicating himself to preaching, to a pastoral life connected with the celebration of the sacraments and to the service of the neediest. Throughout his existence, he fully lived the words of St Paul:  "God has not given us a spirit of fear but a spirit of courage, of love and self control" (II Timothy 1,14. 7). Before the dangers of persecution, Bl. Ignatius did not accept any compromise, declaring to those who were putting pressure on him, "It does not please God that I should deny Jesus my Saviour. To shed my blood for my faith is the strongest desire of my heart". May his example enlighten all those who today wish to be witnesses of the Gospel for the glory of God and for the salvation of their neighbour.

3. In her life as mother of a family and religious foundress of the Sisters of Providence, Emilie Tavernier Gamelin was the model of a courageous abandonment to divine Providence. Her attention to persons and to situations led her to invent new forms of charity. She had a heart open to every kind of trouble, and she was especially the servant of the poor and the little ones, whom she wished to treat like kings. She remembered that she had received everything from the Lord and she wanted to give without counting the cost. This was the secret of her deep joy, even in adversity.


In a spirit of total confidence in God and with an acute sense of obedience, like the anonymous servant in the Gospel of today, she accomplished her duty which she considered a divine commandment, wishing above all to do the will of God in everything. May the new Blessed be a model of contemplation and action for the sisters of her institute and for the persons who work with them.

4. Both of the new Blesseds from Germany lead us into the dark time of the twentieth century. Let us focus on
Bl. Nikolaus Gross, journalist and father of a family. With the clear insight that the Nazi ideology was incompatible with Christian faith, he courageously took up his pen to plead for the dignity of human beings. Nikolaus loved his wife and children very much. However, the inner bond with his own family never allowed him to pull back from confessing Christ and his Church. It was clear to him, "If we do not risk our life today, how then do we want to justify ourselves one day before God and our people?". For this conviction he submitted to being hanged so that heaven itself might be opened to him. In the Blessed Martyr Nikolaus Gross was accomplished what the prophet foretold "The just man will live on account of his faith" (Habakkuk 1,4).


5. The Blessed Sr Euthymia offered another kind of witness. The Clemens Sister dedicated herself tirelessly to the care of the sick, particularly, of the prisoners of war and of foreign workers. For this reason she was nicknamed "Mamma Euthymia". After the war, she was put in charge of the laundry room rather than of the sick. She would have preferred to serve human beings rather than machines. However, she remained a dedicated sister who had a friendly smile and a kind word for everyone. She had a way of describing her mission:  "The Lord can use me like a ray of sun to brighten the day". This Sister lived the word of the Gospel:  whatever we do, we are only unworthy servants. We have only done our duty" (Luke 17,10). In her faith in small things lies her greatness.


6. "If you had faith like a mustard seed", Jesus exclaimed speaking with his disciples (Luke 17,6). It was a genuine and tenacious faith that guided the work and life of Bl. Alfonso Maria Fusco, founder of the Sisters of St John the Baptist. From when he was a young man, the Lord put into his heart the passionate desire to dedicate his life to the service of the neediest, especially of children and young people, who were plentiful in his native city of Angri in Campania. For this he undertook the path of the priesthood and, in a certain way, become the "Don Bosco of Southern Italy". From the beginning he wanted to involve in his work some young women who shared his ideal and he offered them the words of St John the Baptist, "Prepare the way of the Lord" (Luke 3,4). Trusting in divine Providence, Bl. Alfonso and the Sisters of John the Baptist set up a work that was superior to their own expectations. From a simple house for the welcome of the young, there arose a whole Congregation which today is present in 16 countries and on 4 continents working alongside those who are "little" ones and "last".

7. The outstanding vitality of faith, extolled in the Gospel for today, emerges in the life and activity of Tommaso Maria Fusco, founder of the Institute of the Daughters of Charity of the Precious Blood. By virtue of the faith he knew how to live in the world the reality of the Kingdom of God in a very special way. Among his aspirations, there was one which was his favourite:  "I believe in you, my God, increase my faith". It is this prayer that the Apostles direct to the Lord in the Gospel reading today (cf. Luke 17,6). Bl. Tommaso understood that faith is first of all a gift and a grace. No one can conquer it or obtain it by himself. One can only ask for it, implore it from on high. For that reason, enlightened by the teaching of the new Blessed, we never tire of asking the gift of faith, because "the just man will live by faith" (Habakkuk 1,4).

8. The vital synthesis between contemplation and action, assimilated in the daily participation in the Eucharist, was the foundation of the spiritual experience and the burning charity of Bl. Eugenia Picco. In her life she made every effort to listen to the word of the Lord following the invitation of the Liturgy today (refrain for the responsorial psalm), never drawing back from the service which love of neighbour required. At Parma she took upon herself the poverty of the people responding to the needs of the young and of needy families and assisting the victims of the war that in this period made Europe suffer. Even in the face of suffering, with the inevitable moments of difficulty and bewilderment that it entails, Bl. Eugenia Picco knew how to transform the experience of suffering into an occasion of purification and inner growth. From Bl. Eugenia we can learn the art of listening to the voice of the Lord in order to be credible witnesses of the Gospel of charity in the opening years of the millennium.


9. "God is wonderful in his saints!". With the communities in which the Blessed lived and for which they spent their best human and spiritual energies, we want to thank God, who is "wonderful in his saints". At the same time, we ask Him through their intercession, to help us respond with renewed eagerness to the universal call to holiness. Amen.






  Sunday, 3 October 2004


1. "Verbum Domini manet in aeternum - The Word of the Lord will endure for ever". The Gospel acclamation takes us back to the very roots of the faith. As we face the passing of time and the continuous upheavals of history, the revelation that God offered us in Christ endures for ever and opens horizons of eternity to us on our earthly journey.


This is the unique experience of the five new Blesseds: Peter Vigne, Joseph-Marie Cassant, Anne Catherine Emmerick, Maria Ludovica De Angelis and Charles of Austria. They let the Word of God guide them as a bright and safe beacon that never ceased to enlighten them on their way.


2. Contemplating Christ present in the Eucharist and the saving Passion, Fr Peter Vigne was led to be a true disciple and a faithful missionary of the Church. May his example give the faithful the desire to draw daring for the mission from the love of the Eucharist and from the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament! Let us ask him to move the hearts of the young so that, if God calls them, they are ready to dedicate themselves to him without reserve in the priesthood or in the Religious life. May the Church in France find in Fr Vigne an example to raise up new sowers of the Gospel!


3. Fr Joseph-Marie always put his trust in God, in contemplation of the mystery of the Passion and in communion with Christ present in the Eucharist.


Thus, he was imbued with love for God and abandoned himself to him, "the only true happiness on earth", detaching himself from worldly goods in the silence of the Trappist monastery. In the midst of trials, his eyes fixed on Christ, he offered up his sufferings for the Lord and for the Church.


May our contemporaries, especially contemplatives and the sick, discover following his example the mystery of prayer, which raises the world to God and gives strength in trial!


4. "God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control" (II Timothy 1: 7). St Paul's words invite us to collaborate in building the Kingdom of God in the perspective of faith. They can be aptly applied to the life of Bl. Ludovica De Angelis, whose existence was totally dedicated to the glory of God and the service of her peers.


She was a person with an outstanding mother's heart, leadership qualities and the daring typical of saints. She also showed concrete and generous love to sick children, making sacrifices to bring them relief; with her co-workers in La Plata Hospital, she was a model of cheerfulness and responsibility, creating a family atmosphere. As a Daughter of Our Lady of Mercy, she set an authentic example to the Sisters in her community. She was sustained in all this by prayer and by making her life a continuous communication with the Lord.


5. Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerick told of "the sorrowful passion of our Lord Jesus Christ" and lived it in her body. The fact that the daughter of poor peasants who sought tenaciously to be close to God became the well-known "Mystic of the Land of Münster" was a work of divine grace. Her material poverty contrasted with her rich interior life. We are equally impressed by the new Blessed's patience in putting up with physical weakness and her strong character, as well as her unshakable faith.


She found this strength in the Most Holy Eucharist. Her example opened the hearts of poor and rich alike, of simple and cultured persons, whom she instructed in loving dedication to Jesus Christ.


Still today, she passes on to all the saving message: Through the wounds of Christ we have been saved (cf. I Peter 2: 24).


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