.- At the outset of Sunday's Angelus prayer at his summer residence of Castelgandolfo, and as the Church prepares to conclude the 'Year of the Eucharist', Pope Benedict XVI praised the memory of his successor, John Paul II, recalling the late Pope's own love and devotion to the Eucharist and his likeness to the suffering Christ during the final days of his life.
"With what devotion", Benedict said, "did he celebrate Mass, the focal point of each of his days! How much time did he spend in silent, adoring prayer before the tabernacle! In his final months his illness likened him ever more to the suffering Christ."
"It is striking to think that, at the moment of his death, he found himself uniting the offer of his own life to that of Christ in the Mass being celebrated next to his bed. His earthly existence closed in the octave of Easter, in the very heart of this Year of the Eucharist in which his great pontificate gave way to mine."
The Holy Father expressed his joy "that I, from the beginning of this great service the Lord has asked of me, reaffirm the centrality of the Sacrament of the real presence of Christ in the life of the Church and of each individual Christian."
The year of the Eucharist was inaugurated by John Paul II in October of last year in an effort to increase love and devotion to the Sacrament and stress the Church's need for its spiritual nourishment.
The late Pope had said that "In the wake of the Vatican II Council and the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Year of the Eucharist should be a strong time to encounter Christ, present in this sacrament of His Body and His Blood.”
“In this mystery", he continued, "[Christ] brings about sacramentally His paschal sacrifice that redeemed mankind from the slavery of sin and established the divine Kingdom of love, justice and peace."