Pope Sends Message for Chrism Mass

John Paul II «More Present Than Ever,» Says Cardinal Re

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 24, 2005 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II was «more present than ever» in this Holy Thursday’s rites, the first time in his pontificate that he hasn’t presided over them personally, says a cardinal.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, presided on the Pope’s behalf at the Chrism Mass celebrated today in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Holy Father, who is convalescing from throat surgery, followed the event on television from his apartment.

The Mass was concelebrated by cardinals and bishops present in Rome, as well as priests of the diocese and others on pilgrimage.

Referring to the Pope, the cardinal said: «In his absence, he is more present than ever in this Chrism Mass.»

«We want to thank him for the witness he continues to give us also with his example of serene abandonment in God, which associates him to the mystery of the cross,» he said.

«May the invitation to make the Eucharist the heart and summit of our ministry become for each one of us an experience until the end of our life and source of our pastoral dynamism and service to the Church and to humanity,» added Cardinal Re.

At the start of the Mass, the cardinal read a message sent by John Paul II to those present in which he assured them «from my apartment, through television, I am spiritually among you, beloved.»

«With you, I thank God for the gift of the mystery of our priesthood; together with you and all the family of believers I pray that the Church will never lack numerous and holy priests,» he said in his message.

The Pope invited the bishops, priests and deacons present to renew the promises «formulated with generous enthusiasm on the day of our ordination.»

The Holy Father had not been scheduled to appear at the Chrism Mass, so his absence did not cause surprise. Vatican sources explained that the intention was to facilitate his convalescence after his tracheotomy Feb. 24.

Medical sources looking after the Pontiff said Wednesday that his convalescence is slower than expected, but that he seems to have overcome the problems he was experiencing in recent days.

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