Vatican City, Apr 25, 2005 / 22:00 pm
In his homily yesterday evening at the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his desire to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor John Paul II who made the missionary mandate of the Church a cornerstone of his pontificate.
Thirty-five cardinals and representatives from other Christian confessions were present for this, Pope Benedict’s first official trip outside the Vatican in which he greeted and blessed the thousands present, pausing to kiss a number of children.
After venerating the tomb of St. Paul, and recalling his words in the letter to the Romans, the Holy Father noted that his visit represented "a much longed-for pilgrimage, a gesture of faith that I undertake in my own name, but also in the name of the dear diocese of Rome, of which the Lord has made me bishop and pastor, and in that of the Universal Church which is entrusted to my pastoral care.”
He called it “A pilgrimage, so to speak, at the roots of the mission, the mission that the risen Christ entrusted to Peter, to the Apostles, and in a particular way also to Paul, urging him to announce the Gospel to the people until he reached this city where, after having long preached the Kingdom of God, he gave with his own blood the final witness to the Lord, who had 'conquered' and sent him."