Reviewing Trip, Pope Cautions Poland on Its Christian Identity

Key Message Was «God, Rich in Mercy»

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 21, 2002 ( John Paul II recalled the highlights of his trip to Poland and urged his homeland to «safeguard its own Christian identity.»

During today’s general audience held at the papal summer residence, John Paul II recalled his Aug. 16-19 trip. The highlights included the consecration of the Shrine of Divine Mercy, the beatification of four Poles, and the commemoration of the fourth centenary of the Shrine of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska.

Above all, the Pope expressed his gratitude for the affectionate welcome of his compatriots. And he encouraged the country to continue in its effort «to build authentic social progress, without ever neglecting to safeguard its own Christian identity.»

In the presence of 3,500 pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence, and amid the applause and singing of some 300 Poles, the Holy Father emphasized that the fundamental message he wished to leave during the eighth official visit to his homeland was «God, rich in mercy.»

The «main purpose of the visit was, precisely, to proclaim once again that God is rich in mercy, especially through the consecration of the new Shrine of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki,» he said.

«The new church will be a center of worldwide radiation of the fire of the mercy of God, in keeping with what the Lord wished to manifest to St. Faustina Kowalska, apostle of Divine Mercy,» the Holy Father said.

«‘Jesus, I trust in you!’ This is the simple prayer that Sister Faustina has taught us and which we can have on our lips in every instance of our life. How many times, as laborer and student and, then, as priest and bishop, in difficult periods of the history of Poland, I also repeated this simple and profound invocation, experiencing its efficacy and power,» John Paul II said.

The Pope then movingly recalled Sunday’s Mass, the largest in Europe’s history with 3 million participating, during which he beatified four Poles who reflected God’s mercy in their lives of charity.

The beatified were Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski (1822-1895), archbishop of Krakow who was deported to Siberia by the czarist power; Father Jan Balicki (1869-1948), confessor and teacher of seminarians; Jesuit Jan Beyzym (1850-1912), «apostle of lepers» in Madagascar; and Sister Sancja Szymkowiak (1910-1942), «angel of goodness» for French and English prisoners during World War II.

«I wished to hold up to the Christian people these new blessed, so that their example and their words will be a stimulus and encouragement to witness with deeds to the merciful love of the Lord, who conquers evil with good,» the Pope continued.

«Only in this way is it possible to build the longed-for civilization of love, whose gentle force is in vigorous contrast to the ‘mysterium iniquitatis’ [mystery of iniquity] present in the world,» John Paul II added.

The Holy Father also recalled the last stage of his 98th international trip, his visit Monday to the Shrine of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, whose fourth centenary he helped commemorate.

«I have been linked to that holy place since my childhood,» the Pope said. «Many times I have experienced how the Mother of God, Lady of Graces, turns her merciful eyes to afflicted man, in need of her wisdom and help.»

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