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Papal Address at Shrine of the Holy Face

"To 'See God' It Is Necessary to Know Christ"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 8, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered last Friday when he went on pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Italy.

* * *

Before entering the shrine, the Holy Father greeted the faithful gathered outside:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you for this most cordial welcome. I see that the Church is a large family. Wherever the Pope goes the family meets with great joy.

For me this is a sign of lively faith, of communion and of the peace that faith creates, and I am deeply grateful to you for this welcome. Thus, I see on your faces the full beauty of this region of Italy here.

A special greeting to the sick: We know that the Lord is especially close to you, helps you and accompanies you in your sufferings. You are in our prayers, and pray for us, too!

I offer a special greeting to the young people and children making their first Communion. Thank you for your enthusiasm and for your faith.

As the Psalms say, we are all "seeking the Face of the Lord." And this is also the meaning of my visit. Let us seek together to know the Face of the Lord ever better, and in the Face of the Lord let us find this impetus of love and peace which also reveals to us the path of our life.

Thank you, and my best wishes to you all!

* * *

Venerable Brother in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

First of all, I must once again say a heartfelt "thank you" for this welcome, for your words, Your Excellency, so profound, so friendly, for the expression of your friendship and for the deeply meaningful gifts: the Face of Christ venerated here, for me, for my house, and then the gifts of your land that express the beauty and generosity of the earth, of the people who live and work here, and the goodness of the Creator himself. I simply want to thank the Lord for today's simple, family meeting in a place where we can meditate on the mystery of divine love, contemplating the image of the Holy Face.

I extend my most heartfelt gratitude to all of you present here for your cordial welcome and for the dedication and discretion with which you have supported my private pilgrimage, which nevertheless, as an ecclesial pilgrimage, cannot be entirely private.

I greet and thank in particular, I repeat, your archbishop, a long-standing friend. We worked together in the Theological Commission. And in many conversations I always learned from his wisdom, and also from his books.

Thank you for your gifts which I very much appreciate as "signs," as Archbishop Forte has called them.

Indeed, they are signs of the affective and effective communion which binds the people of this beloved Abruzzi region to the Successor of Peter.

I address a special greeting to you, priests, men and women religious and seminarians gathered here. I am particularly glad to see a large number of seminarians: the future of the Church in our midst. Since it is impossible to meet the entire diocesan community -- perhaps that will be for another time -- I am glad that you are representing it, people already dedicated to the priestly ministry and the consecrated life or who are on the way to the priesthood.

You are people whom I like to think of as in love with Christ, attracted by him and determined to make your own life a continuous quest for his Holy Face.

Lastly, I address a grateful thought to the community of the Capuchin Fathers who are offering us hospitality and who for centuries have cared for this shrine, the goal of so many pilgrims.

During my pause for prayer just now, I was thinking of the first two apostles who, urged by John the Baptist, followed Jesus to the banks of the Jordan River, as we read at the beginning of John's Gospel (cf. 1:35-37).

The evangelist recounts that Jesus turned around and asked them: "What do you seek?" And they answered him, "Rabbi ... where are you staying?" And he said to them, "Come and see" (cf. John 1:38-39).

That very same day, the two who were following him had an unforgettable experience which prompted them to say: "We have found the Messiah" (John 1:41).

The One whom a few hours earlier they had thought of as a simple "rabbi" had acquired a very precise identity: the identity of Christ who had been awaited for centuries. But, in fact, what a long journey still lay ahead of those disciples!

They could not even imagine how profound the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth could be or how unfathomable, inscrutable, his "Face" would prove, so that even after living with Jesus for three years, Philip, who was one of them, was to hear him say at the Last Supper: "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip?" And then ...

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