.- The Vatican released today the text of a video message recorded by Pope Benedict XVI to the people of Poland. The nation celebrated its sixth annual “Day of the Pope” yesterday, commemorating the election of Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict’s message was broadcast on Polish television.
Recalling the day of John Paul II's election, Pope Benedict said he can "still hear the echo" of the words pronounced by Karol Wojtyla as he accepted his election to the Papacy, and also remembers his "prophetic call: 'Do not be afraid! Open the doors to Christ!'"
“I thank God that with these images in my heart I was able to pass more than two decades at his side enjoying his benevolence and friendship, and that today I can continue his work under his protective gaze from the house of the Father,” Pope Benedict continued, “I thank God for his life, passed in the love of Christ and of men, that enriched ... all humanity with the grace of the Holy Spirit .... Finally, I thank God for the witness of his suffering associated to Christ's own tribulation unto death - witness that gives us the strength to live, and secures in us the hope of eternity.”
Benedict XVI highlighted John Paul II's devotion to the Church in Poland, which he "loved as a mother" and "as a community always united around its pastors;" a community "which in the past suffered various persecutions," but which always "remained faithful to evangelical values." When Poland regained its liberty, added the Pope in his Message, John Paul II took care to ensure that "his countrymen learned to live in the freedom of the children of God and not of the children of this world, and that they upheld the faith.”
"Aware of this heritage that he left to the Church in Poland," Pope Benedict added, "I came among you this year with Paul's words: 'remain strong in the faith.'” The Holy Father said he prays that God will preserve the faith of the Polish people for future generations.
“I thank you particularly for all your displays of loving union with the Pope who succeeded your great countryman, and I entrust my service for the Church and for the world to your spiritual support," Pope Benedict said.
The Pope concluded his Message by expressing the hope that "the memory of John Paul II, the study of his works and his teaching," may bring the Polish people closer to Christ. "May this be the bond of unity in a shared concern for the future of the Church and the nation."