Sunday, May 28, 2006

Ascension Sunday in Krakow

Last night, in a particularly moving moment, the successor to Karol Wojtyla appeared at the window of the Archbishop's Residence in Krakow, the vantage from which Wojtyla communicated with his flock in his pre-papal days, and then through the night on his homecoming pilgrimages as Pope.

And on this, the last day of the John Paul II Memorial Pilgrimage, a crowd estimated at 900,000 showed up in Krakow's Blonia Park as Benedict XVI celebrated the Mass of the Ascension -- the first time a Pope has marked the end of Jesus' earthly life not on its traditional observance of Thursday. (The Solemnity is also marked today in the majority of the US and many other countries.)

As he prepares to visit the most infamous of the Nazi concentration camp, the AP reports the following:

A shadow was cast over the Auschwitz visit by an attack Saturday on Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich. Police said Schudrich was unhurt and the assailant fled, and that they were treating it as a possible anti-Semitic attack.

The Holy See has published the translation of this morning's homily.... Some snips:

Today we heard the words of Jesus: "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Centuries ago these words reached Poland. They challenged, and continue to challenge all those who say they belong to Christ, who consider his to be the greatest cause. We need to be witnesses of Jesus, who lives in the Church and in human hearts. He has given us a mission. On the day he ascended to heaven, he said to his Apostles: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation … And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it" (Mk 16:15,20). Dear brothers and sisters! When Karol Wojtyła was elected to the See of Peter in order to serve the universal Church, your land became a place of special witness to faith in Jesus Christ. You were called to give this witness before the whole world. This vocation of yours is always needed, and it is perhaps even more urgent than ever, now that the Servant of God has passed from this life. Do not deprive the world of this witness!

Before I return to Rome to continue my ministry, I appeal to all of you in the words spoken here by Pope John Paul II in 1979: "You must be strong, dear brothers and sisters. You must be strong with the strength that comes from faith. You must be strong with the strength of faith. You must be faithful. Today, more than in any other age, you need this strength. You must be strong with the strength of hope, the hope that brings perfect joy in life and which prevents us from ever grieving the Holy Spirit! You must be strong with love, the love which is stronger than death ... You must be strong with the strength of faith, hope and charity, a charity that is conscious, mature and responsible, and which can help us at this moment of our history to carry on the great dialogue with man and the world, a dialogue rooted in dialogue with God himself, with the Father, through the Son in the Holy Spirit, the dialogue of salvation" (Homily, 10 June 1979, no. 4).

I too, Benedict XVI, the Successor of Pope John Paul II, am asking you to look up from earth to heaven, to lift your eyes to the One to whom succeeding generations have looked for two thousand years, and in whom they have discovered life’s ultimate meaning. Strengthened by faith in God, devote yourselves fervently to consolidating his Kingdom on earth, a Kingdom of goodness, justice, solidarity and mercy. I ask you to bear courageous witness to the Gospel before today’s world, bringing hope to the poor, the suffering, the lost and abandoned, the desperate and those yearning for freedom, truth and peace. By doing good to your neighbour and showing your concern for the common good, you bear witness that God is love.

I ask you, finally, to share with the other peoples of Europe and the world the treasure of your faith, not least as a way of honouring the memory of your countryman, who, as the Successor of Saint Peter, did this with extraordinary power and effectiveness. And remember me in your prayers and sacrifices, even as you remembered my great Predecessor, so that I can carry out the mission Christ has given me. I ask you to stand firm in your faith! Stand firm in your hope! Stand firm in your love! Amen!

PHOTO 1: Reuters/Jerry Lampen
PHOTO 2: AP/Pier Paolo Cito