VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II expressed thanks for the congratulatory messages arriving from around the world for his 25th anniversary as Pope.
More than 16,000 pilgrims, including 1,500 Poles, were on hand today in St. Peter’s Square to hear the Holy Father. Many have come to Rome to participate in the anniversary celebration that takes place Thursday — the anniversary of his election Oct. 16, 1978 — and will culminate Sunday with the beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
At the end of the audience, speaking in Polish, the Holy Father said he was grateful “from the heart” for the help he has received during the past 25 years and “for the prayers and expressions of good will and communion.”
“I feel happy being able to count on your spiritual support,” said the Pope, who appeared to be in better health than in recent days. “Carry my greeting to your families.”
At the beginning of the audience, the Pope’s voice was weak. But the songs of the pilgrims, and the applause of various national groups, seemed to lift him. At the end, his voice was stronger and clearer.
Before saying goodbye to the crowds, he invited them, in Italian, to participate in the Mass he will preside over Thursday at 6 p.m. in St. Peter’s Square “to praise the Lord and give him thanks on this happy occasion.”
His dedicated his address at the general audience to comment on the meaning and structure of vespers, or evening prayer of Church, which have been traced back to the fourth century.
Because of the difficulty he had in reading the text, the Pope skipped some paragraphs of his text, as he has done in other recent public events.
He reminded the audience that evening prayer ends by asking for God’s pardon and for reconciliation among people, because “the sun must not go down on anyone’s anger.”
This final liturgical practice of the day “expresses the entrustment of our life in the hands of the Father, knowing that his blessing will never fail.”