Pope John Paul II helped Christians to be unafraid of professing their faith and living the truth, Benedict XVI noted at his predecessor's beatification Mass today.
The Pontiff addressed over a million pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square and surrounding areas for the ceremony in honor of the Polish Pope, who often urged Christians, "Do not be afraid!"
Benedict XVI observed, "By his witness of faith, love and apostolic courage, accompanied by great human charisma, this exemplary son of Poland helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel."
The Pope added, "He helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty."
He affirmed that John Paul II "gave us the strength to believe in Christ, because Christ is Redemptor hominis, the Redeemer of man."
Benedict XVI noted that what his predecessor asked of everyone, "he was himself the first to do: Society, culture, political and economic systems he opened up to Christ, turning back with the strength of a titan -- a strength which came to him from God -- a tide which appeared irreversible."
He observed that Karol Wojtyła, now Blessed John Paul II, taught that "man is the way of the Church, and Christ is the way of man."
"With this message," the Pontiff said, "which is the great legacy of the Second Vatican Council and of its helmsman, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, John Paul II led the people of God across the threshold of the Third Millennium, which thanks to Christ he was able to call 'the threshold of hope.'"
"He restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope, to be lived in history in an 'advent' spirit, in a personal and communitarian existence directed to Christ, the fullness of humanity and the fulfillment of all our longings for justice and peace," the Holy Father stated.
He noted, "All of us rejoice that the beatification of John Paul II takes place on this first day of the month of Mary."
The Pope continued, "All of us, as members of the people of God -- bishops, priests, deacons, laity, men and women religious -- are making our pilgrim way to the heavenly homeland where the Virgin Mary has preceded us, associated as she was in a unique and perfect way to the mystery of Christ and the Church."
Benedict XVI affirmed that his predecessor was "fully aware" that "the Mother of the Redeemer is held up as an image and model of holiness for every Christian and for the entire Church."
He recalled: "Six years ago we gathered in this square to celebrate the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
"Our grief at his loss was deep, but even greater was our sense of an immense grace which embraced Rome and the whole world: a grace which was in some way the fruit of my beloved predecessor's entire life, and especially of his witness in suffering."
On a personal note, the Pope said, "my own service was sustained by his spiritual depth and by the richness of his insights."
The Pontiff continued: "His example of prayer continually impressed and edified me: He remained deeply united to God even amid the many demands of his ministry.
"Then too, there was his witness in suffering: The Lord gradually stripped him of everything, yet he remained ever a 'rock,' as Christ desired.
"His profound humility, grounded in close union with Christ, enabled him to continue to lead the Church and to give to the world a message which became all the more eloquent as his physical strength declined."
Thus, "with all due respect for the Church's canonical norms, I wanted his cause of beatification to move forward with reasonable haste," the Holy Father stated. "And now the longed-for day has come; it came quickly because this is what was pleasing to the Lord: John Paul II is blessed!"
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