Ancona (Italy)
Sunday 30 May 1999



Dear Brothers and Sisters!


1. At the end of this inspiring Eucharistic celebration our thoughts turn to Blessed Mary, venerated in many churches, chapels and shrines in the Archdiocese of Ancona-Osimo. Here I would like to mention the shrines of Our Lady of Sorrows of Campocavallo in Osimo, Our Lady of Tornazzano in Filottrano, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Osimo, and Our Lady of the Rosary in Falconara.


In your Cathedral of St Cyriacus, whose millennium we are celebrating, there is a chapel dedicated to Our Lady Queen of All Saints, the city's principal patroness. From this stadium I go as a pilgrim in spirit to the artistic shrine that frames the miraculous image of Our Lady, to whom Ancona's people are so devoted. It is a simple but very expressive painting which, according to tradition, a Venetian sailor gave to the cathedral canons of Ancona as an ex voto offering after he had escaped shipwreck. I would like to entrust your archdiocesan community and all the city's inhabitants to Mary. May she always protect and preserve you from the billows of life.


2. From this city, which is linked with the East by tradition, I cannot help but turn my gaze across the Adriatic Sea, which for many refugees represents a difficult path of hope. Unfortunately, in Kosovo and in the Yugoslav Republic oppression and violence continue unabated, with many human victims and great environmental damage. Today I renew my heartfelt invitation to peace. It is an invitation which becomes a prayer that Mary will obtain for us such an essential and irreplaceable gift. During this month of May, in response to my appeal, you too have been reciting the Holy Rosary each day, the "Rosary of peace", in union with believers throughout the world.


In view of the continuing violence, let us make a trusting plea for the peoples of Kosovo and Yugoslavia, for too long the victims of a situation that marks a serious defeat for humanity just after the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Let us also remember other peoples, especially on the African continent, who are paying an unacceptable toll of human lives, hunger, poverty and humiliation due to protracted fratricidal conflicts, often ignored by public opinion.


3. In lifting our thoughts to the Holy Trinity, an ocean of love and peace, let us pray that humanity can find the courage of reconciliation. May dialogue, solidarity and love prevail over the many forms of pride and deceit. May God enlighten the consciences of those responsible, so that they will put the defence of the basic rights of the human person above every other consideration. Every time, in fact, that hatred and violence triumph, it is man who is defeated. May the Lord comfort and help the thousands of children, women, elderly and sick who are innocent victims of the war. I would also like to mention in this prayer those who died in the Second World War, including my compatriots and contemporaries, some of whom, my own classmates, died here near Ancona.


Mary, Queen of Peace, Queen of All Saints, pray for us and obtain peace for the world!




Plovdiv - Central Square
Sunday 26 May 2002


1. "To you be praise and glory for ever!"


A few moments ago we sang these words in the Responsorial Psalm. Our assembly, dear brothers and sisters, has come together today, on the Lord's Day, to celebrate the grandeur and the holiness of our God and to profess the faith of the Church.


The descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost is the crowning of the cycle of events by which God, in successive historical stages, came to meet men and women and offered them the gift of salvation. The Liturgy invites us today to go back to the supreme Source of this gift: God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Most Holy Trinity.


2. The Old Testament emphasizes that God is one. In the First Reading we heard God proclaim before Moses: "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6). Moses, for his part, exhorts his people: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord" (Deuteronomy 6:4).


The New Testament reveals to us that the one God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit: one divine nature in three Persons, perfectly equal and really distinct. Jesus names these Persons explicitly, when he orders the Apostles to baptize "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19).


The whole New Testament is one continuous and explicit proclamation of this mystery which the Church, the faithful guardian of the word of God, has always proclaimed, explained and defended. For this reason we too say to God, Most High and Omnipotent, Father, Son and Holy Spirit: "To you be praise and glory for ever!".


3. With the Apostle Paul, I invoke upon everyone "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit" (2 Corinthians 13:14). With particular affection I greet you, dear brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the Catholic Church, assembled here with your Bishops from the Dioceses of Sofia-Plovdiv and Nicopoli and from the Apostolic Exarchate for the faithful of the Byzantine-Slav rite. I thank the Pastor of this Particular Church, Bishop Gheorghi Jovev, for his words of welcome and I offer cordial greetings to my Brothers in the Episcopate, Bishop Christo Proykov, President of the Episcopal Conference, and Bishop Petko Christov, Bishop of Nicopoli. I also greet the Cardinals and Bishops who have come from nearby countries in order in order to share this day of celebration with the Church in Bulgaria.


I would like to address a particular greeting to His Eminence Arsenij, the Orthodox Metropolitan of Plovdiv, who with exquisite thoughtfulness has wished to take part in the celebration of this holy Liturgy; I thank him most sincerely for the cordial words which he addressed to me at the beginning of the celebration. With him I greet in the Lord all the faithful of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church who have joined us. Their presence here is a most welcome sign of brotherhood, giving us a foretaste in hope of the joy of full unity, when it will be granted us to celebrate together the Eucharistic Sacrifice, memorial of the Death and Resurrection of the Lord.


I also wish to greet with respect the followers of Islam, who also worship, although in a different way, the One and All-powerful God.


Finally, I greet the civil authorities who honour us by their presence. I thank them for their help in making possible my visit to Bulgaria.


4. God, One and Three, is present in his people, the Church. We are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; in this same name the other Sacraments are administered. In a special way the Mass, "the centre of all Christian life", is characterized by the remembrance of the Divine Persons: the Father to whom the offering is made; the Son, priest and victim of the sacrifice; the Holy Spirit, invoked to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ and to make those who partake of them one body and one spirit.


The life of Christians is completely directed towards this mystery. The success of our journey here below depends on our faithful response to the love of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.


This truth was ever before the eyes of the three Assumptionist priests whom today I have the joy of beatifying. The cause for which Fathers Kamen Vitchev, Pavel Djidjov and Josaphat Chichkov did not hesitate to give their lives was their faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; it was love of Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, to whom they gave themselves unreservedly in the service of his Church.


Father Josaphat Chichkov declared: "We seek to do as best we can everything that is expected of us in order to become holy", and he added: "The most important thing is to draw near to God by living for him; everything else is secondary". Several months before the infamous trial which condemned them to death together with Bishop Bossilkov, foreseeing in some way what awaited them, Father Kamen Vitchev wrote to his Provincial Superior: "Obtain for us by prayer the grace of being faithful to Christ and to the Church in our daily life, so that we may be worthy of bearing witness when the time comes". And Father Pavel Djidjov said: "We await our turn: may God's will be done".


5. In thinking of the three new Beati, I also feel in duty bound to honour the memory of the other confessors of the faith who were sons and daughters of the Orthodox Church and who suffered martyrdom under the same Communist regime. This tribute of fidelity to Christ brought together the two ecclesial communities in Bulgaria, even to the supreme witness. "This gesture cannot fail to have an ecumenical character and significance. Perhaps the most convincing form of ecumenism is the ecumenism of the saints and of the martyrs. The communio sanctorum speaks louder than the things which divide us" (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 37).


How could that communion not already be perfect, when it is realized "in what we all consider the highest point of the life of grace, martyria unto death"? (Ut Unum Sint, 84). Is this not "the truest communion possible with Christ who shed his Blood, and by that sacrifice brings near those who once were far off (cf. Ephesians 2:13)"?


6. The courageous fidelity in the face of suffering and imprisonment shown by Fathers Josaphat, Kamen and Pavel was acknowledged by their former students - Catholics, Orthodox, Jews and Muslims -, by their parishioners, the members of their religious communities, and their fellow prisoners. By their dynamism, their fidelity to the Gospel, their selfless service to the Nation, the new Beati stand out as models for Christians today, especially for Bulgaria's young people, who are looking to give meaning to their lives and who wish to follow Christ whether as laypersons, in religious life or in the priesthood.


May the special commitment with which the new Beati encouraged candidates to the presbyterate be an incentive for everyone: I exhort the local Church in Bulgaria to consider seriously the possibility of re-establishing a Seminary in which young men, by means of a solid human, intellectual and spiritual training, can prepare themselves for the ministerial priesthood in the service of God and their brothers and sisters.


7. The mystery of the Trinity reveals to us the love which is in God, the love which is God himself, the love with which God loves all men. "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). The Crucified and Risen Son, for his part, has sent in the Father's name the Holy Spirit, to nourish in the hearts of believers the desire for and the expectation of eternity.


The new Beati actively experienced this expectation, and they now enjoy the all-satisfying contemplation of the Most Holy Trinity. Let us entrust ourselves to their intercession by praying, in the words of the Byzantine Liturgy (Sext, Dismissal Prayer):


"Eternal God, you dwell in inaccessible light...
Protect us who put our hope in you,
fill us with your divine and august grace.
For yours is the power, yours the majesty, might and glory,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
now and for ever.







Plovdiv - Central Square
Sunday 26 May 2002



Dear Brothers and Sisters!


1. At the conclusion of our celebration, we turn to the Mother of the Lord, the All-Holy, present in our midst in the beloved figure of the Holy Icon of Bakovo.


Together with you I make a spiritual pilgrimage to that Monastery and to the other Shrines dedicated to Mary throughout your land, and I repeat the greeting of the Angel: "Hail, full of grace!" (Luke 1:28).


2. The humble handmaid of the Father, the faithful bride of the Spirit, the most pure Mother of the Son made man, Mary shines forth before us as a model of Christian life. At her school we learn silence, listening and service, the fundamental marks of the life of a disciple.


Today too, in our restless and often confused world, silence helps us to make space for the word which saves, listening teaches us attention and tenderness, while free and generous service enlivens fraternal and community life.


3. By her powerful intercession, may the Virgin Mary help you daily to discover anew your dignity as children of God. May she obtain for you a spirit of readiness to carry out the will of the Father and to receive the gifts of the Spirit. May she keep within you a pure and generous heart capable of openness to the needs of our brothers and sisters.



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29 June 2014