VATICAN CITY, OCT. 13, 2004 ( The most radical liberation of a person, "the forgiveness of sins," has been made possible by the blood of Christ, says John Paul II.

Moreover, holiness consists, not of "ritual," but of "love," the Pope added when addressing 16,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for today's general audience.

The Holy Father, when entering the square in the popemobile, had the vehicle stop so he could greet pilgrims close up. He was then driven to the atrium of St. Peter's Basilica to begin his traditional weekly meeting with the faithful.

He dedicated today's reflection to comment on the canticle that opens St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians (1:3-10). "He chose us in him [Christ], before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him," Verse 4 states.

It is not a question of a ritual holiness, the Pope noted, but "of holiness and of moral, existential, inner purity."

Christ "destines us to receive the gift of filial dignity, becoming sons in the Son and brothers of Jesus. This gift of grace is poured out through the Beloved Son, the Only-Begotten par excellence," said the Holy Father, who marks the 26th anniversary of his pontificate this Saturday.

"In this way the Father works a radical transformation in us: a full liberation from evil, redemption through the blood of Christ, the forgiveness of our trespasses through the riches of his grace," the Pontiff continued.

"Christ's immolation on the cross, supreme act of love and solidarity, sheds over us a superabundant ray of light, of wisdom and insight," he added. "And given that in biblical language knowledge is an expression of love, the latter introduces us more profoundly in the mystery of the divine will."

"A mystery, namely, a transcendent and perfect plan, which has as its object a wonderful salvific plan: to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth," he explained.

The Pope concluded his address with a prayer of the early Christians conserved in a fourth-century papyrus.

The prayer ends with this invocation: "Grant us to see, seek and contemplate the goods of heaven and not those of earth."

The Holy Father's reflection continued the series of meditations he has been offering for months on the canticles and Psalms of the Liturgy of Vespers, the evening prayer of the Church. The meditations may be consulted in the Wednesday's Audience section of ZENIT's Web page.