Pope Ends "Beneficial" Vacation in Alps

Bids Farewell to Priests and Security Staff in Les Combes

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LES COMBES, Italy, JULY 20, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II ended his 12-day holiday in the Italian Alps today, calling his vacation helpful and thanking his hosts for their hospitality.

«This vacation period in the enchanting mountains of Val d´Aosta has been beneficial,» he told security personnel, whom he also thanked for their work. «I have allowed myself to enjoy intensely the peace and pleasantness of these attractive places. I hope that, despite your effort to comply with your duties, you also received some benefit from it.»

Before leaving the Alps, the Pope celebrated Mass at 8 a.m. with the priests of the Diocese of Aosta and their bishop, Giuseppe Anfossi.

He told the priests of his «joy to be celebrating with you,» thanked them for coming to Les Combes. The Pope thanked the bishop for his helpfulness, «which I very much appreciated,» and he thanked the Salesian community that «generously accommodates me in this house.»

The Holy Father stayed a Salesian-built chalet during his vacation. He spent his days making excursions by car into the mountains.

He renewed his gratitude to all those who «during these days, in different ways, have contributed to make my stay peaceful. … I offer this Eucharistic celebration for each one.»

John Paul II then commented on the Mass´ responsorial psalm: «I will offer you sacrifices of praise,» affirming that the Eucharist is the sacrifice of praise par excellence. He told the priests that each is called to become a sacrifice of praise.

John Paul II then read the Gospel passage, where the Lord laments that the Pharisees do not understand what is meant by «I desire mercy, not sacrifice.» Christ´s minister is a minister of his sacrifice and his mercy, he said.

The Pope exhorted the priests not to be reluctant to dedicate time to the sacrament of reconciliation, so in need of being rediscovered by the people of God in its «humanizing» mission and, in this connection, proposed the Cure of Ars as a model.

In late morning, the Pope met and thanked the personnel of the security services. «I heartily thank you because all of you, according to your various competencies, contributed to guarantee once again a peaceful and serene stay for me and my collaborators,» he said.

«I am thinking of your families, which the demands of service have made you leave for some time,» he added. «I assure you of my prayers for them, may they always be harmonious, solid in human and Christian values, delighted by good and generous children. I pray, especially, for your loved ones who, because of age or sickness, are perhaps experiencing a difficult time.»

On Monday the Pope is scheduled to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush at Castel Gandolfo.

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