VATICAN CITY, OCT. 16, 2003 (Zenit.org).- During a Mass celebrated at the same hour he was elected Pope exactly 25 years ago, John Paul II placed his life in God’s hands and requested the help of believers worldwide.
The Holy Father sang some of the songs and not only presided at but also celebrated the Mass in a packed St. Peter’s Square.
In the homily, John Paul II recalled those moments when the College of Cardinals elected him at age 58 as St. Peter’s 263rd Successor.
As news of his election in 1978 went out, church bells pealed throughout his native Poland.
“Humanly speaking, how could I not tremble?” the Pope asked. “How could I not feel the weight of such a great responsibility?”
“It was necessary to take recourse to Divine Mercy so that when asked the question ‘Do you accept?’ I could answer with confidence: ‘In obedience of the faith, before Christ my Lord, commending myself to the Mother of Christ and of the Church, conscious of the great difficulties, I accept,'” he recalled.
The Pope read the introduction and conclusion of the homily, while Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for general affairs of the Vatican Secretariat of State, read the central passages.
The conclusion of the Pope’s address became a personal and emotional prayer. He was heard by official delegations from many countries. Poland was represented by President Aleksander Kwasniewski, as well as by former President Lech Walesa. Columba Bush, George W. Bush’s sister-in-law, represented the United States along with a 24-member presidential delegation.
The Holy Father said: “To you, Lord Jesus Christ, only Pastor of the Church, I offer the fruits of these 25 years of ministry at the service of the people you entrusted to me.”
“Forgive the wrong done and multiply the good: All is your work and to you only is glory due,” he said. “With full confidence in your mercy, I present to you today once again those you entrusted years ago to my pastoral care.”
“Keep them in love, gather them in your flock, carry the weak on your shoulders, look after the strong,” John Paul II added. “Be their Pastor, so they will not be lost. Protect the beloved Church that is in Rome and the Churches throughout the world. Assist with the light and power of your Spirit those whom you have placed at the head of your flock. May they energetically fulfill their mission of guides, teachers, sanctifiers, while awaiting your glorious return.”
“I renew to you, by the intercession of Mary, beloved Mother, the gift of myself, of the present and future: May all be done according to your will, Supreme Pastor, stay among us, so that we can advance safely with you to the house of the Father,” he said.
At the beginning of the Mass, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, said a few words in which he recalled details of the announcement of the election of Karol Wojtyla as Pope.
“In his life, the word ‘cross’ is not just a word. He has allowed himself to be wounded by it in his soul and body,” the cardinal said.
“You have borne the criticisms and insults, also inspiring gratitude and love and making the walls of hatred collapse,” he added.
At the end of the Mass, the Holy Father spoke again to thank “all those who, from so many parts of the world, support my daily apostolic ministry with prayer and the offering of their suffering.”
“Thank you for the affection which you have shown toward the Successor of Peter,” he said in English.