Pope Recalls Words of Christ: "Feed My Sheep"

First Public Appearance After Spiritual Exercises

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2005 (Zenit.org).- In his first public appearance in a week, John Paul II emerged energized from his spiritual retreat expressing his intention to continue in his Petrine ministry.

Reading the Angelus message today in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope stated his commitment to be of “service to the unity of the Church.”

After recalling the risen Jesus’ words to Peter “Feed my sheep,” the Pope said: “I feel this invitation of Jesus particularly alive in my spirit, when I contemplate the Eucharistic mystery.”

“The Eucharist is the source from which communion among the members of the Mystical Body of Christ, always draws new vigor,” he clarified.

“It is in this perspective that the peculiar task entrusted to Peter and his successors becomes fully evident: the Petrine ministry is essentially service to the unity of the Church.”

“‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,'” he affirmed, quoting Matthew 16:18.

“This promise of the Lord is echoed in his other comforting words: ‘I have prayed for you [Simon], that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren,'” he added.

The Pope prayed for “the whole people of God in this Lenten journey towards Easter.”

Last week Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of Vatican Secretariat of State read the message for the Pope as he was still recovering from the flu.

Archbishop Sandri led the Marian prayers, but the Pope intoned the Latin blessing and greeted the groups of pilgrims present, in particular groups from Slovakia and Italy.

As in other years, John Paul II did not hold any audiences last week as he participated in the retreat preached by Italian Bishop Renato Corti of Novara.

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