VATICAN CITY, MAR 20, 2004 (VIS) - Pope John Paul celebrated Mass this evening in the Paul VI Hall for the faithful of four Roman parishes - St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Patrick, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and Mary, Help of Christians - thus bringing to 314 the number of parishes that he has encountered during his more than 25 years as Pope and bishop of Rome.
He began his homily by noting that "we have reached the fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally known as Laetare Sunday, and we have a foretaste, in a certain way, of the spiritual joy of Easter."
Turning to the parishes, which are on the eastern periphery of Rome, the Pope highlighted their "constant effort at evangelization. I congratulate all those who, notwithstanding the precarious nature of the structures, assiduously follow the itineraries of Christian formation and catechesis, dedicate themselves to the liturgy and to charity towards our needy brothers, and prepare young people for matrimony and family life."
He pointed out that Tor Vergata, which hosted the "unforgettable" World Youth Day in August of the Jubilee Year 2000, is part of the same area as St. Margaret Mary Alacoque parish. "At the center of that memorable event was the Cross of the Holy Year of the Redemption. Dear young people, make the Cross your basic point of reference. Draw from the crucified and risen Christ the courage to evangelize our world, so overwhelmed by divisions, hatred, wars and terrorism, but rich in so many human and spiritual resources. I look forward to seeing many of you in St. Peter's Square on Thursday, April 1" and "on Palm Sunday for World Youth Day."
The Holy Father remarked on how "open and welcoming" the parishes are. "Among you there are many Polish and Latin American faithful. These brothers and sister of ours feel loved as Christ loved and served every man and every woman right up to the sacrifice of Himself, And this is the concrete witness of faith that touches the hearts of those who are distant."
HML/PARISHES:YOUTH DAY/. VIS 20040322 (350)