VATICAN CITY, MARCH 27, 2002 ( John Paul II urged the faithful to live the Easter Triduum intensely, in order to understand better God´s mercy and the hope brought by Christ.

Addressing thousands of pilgrims gathered in Paul VI Hall today, the Pope dedicated the weekly general audience to meditating on the culminating events of the life of Jesus, which Christians relive over the next three days.

"In the Paschal Triduum we will fix our gaze more intensely on the face of Christ, a suffering and agonizing face, which enables us to understand better the dramatic nature of the events and situations that also in these days afflict humanity," John Paul II said.

The Holy Father recalled the first Holy Thursday, when Jesus at the Last Supper instituted the priesthood and gave the new commandment to love. He also left what his disciples considered his greatest gift: the Eucharist, "making himself our food of salvation," the Pope said.

When Christians later relive Jesus´ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, they "will feel singularly in tune with those lying under the weight of anguish and solitude," John Paul II said. "Meditating on the process to which Jesus was subjected, we will remember all those who are persecuted for their faith and for the sake of justice."

On Good Friday, the day of the passion, Christians are called to accompany Christ to the crucifixion, the Pope added.

"The adoration of the cross will enable us to understand more profoundly the infinite mercy of God," who died in ignominy to save men, John Paul II continued. At this time, "our confident prayer will be raised for those who are weighed down in body and spirit by the weight of evil and sin," the Pope added.

John Paul II called on the faithful to "confidently place at the foot of the cross the longing that is in everyone´s heart: the desire for peace."

The day that begins with Christ´s body in the sepulcher was described by the Pope as a Saturday of "recollection and silence," in preparation for the Paschal Vigil, which will "reveal the splendor of our destiny: to constitute a new humanity, redeemed by Christ, who died and rose for us."

Over the next three days, he said, "we will be able to understand and love the cross of Christ to the end: On it Christ has vanquished sin and death forever!"

John Paul II ended: "This is my wish: May it be a truly Holy Triduum, to live a happy and consoling Easter!"