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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- The merciful love of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, is what motivates the Catholic Church in its sacraments, its charitable activities and its insistence on correct moral behavior, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Reciting the Regina Coeli with visitors gathered in the courtyard of the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo March 30, Pope Benedict marked Divine Mercy Sunday and kicked off a week of festivities dedicated to the memory of Pope John Paul II and to the divine mercy devotions he promoted.

Pope Benedict said of Pope John Paul, "His whole mission at the service of the truth about God and the human person and about peace in the world" flowed from his conviction that God's mercy was the only source of hope for humanity.

His message, like that of St. Faustina Kowalska, the Polish nun who promoted the divine mercy devotion and was canonized by Pope John Paul, always pointed to Christ, "the supreme revelation of God's mercy," Pope Benedict said.

Pope John Paul died April 2, 2005, the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday that year.

"In reality, mercy is the central nucleus of the Gospel message; it is the very name of God; the face with which he revealed himself in the old covenant and fully in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of creative and redeeming love," Pope Bendict said.

Divine mercy also shines through the church and is demonstrated in the sacraments, especially the sacrament of reconciliation, and in individual and collective acts of charity, he said.

"Everything the church says and does manifests the mercy that God has for the human person," he said.

"When the church must reaffirm a truth that has been misunderstood or a good that has been betrayed, it always does so moved by merciful love so that people would have life and have it in abundance," Pope Benedict said.

The pope also said the mercy of God is the truest source of peace, not only in individual hearts, but also among people.

He entrusted to Mary his prayers for "the great cause of peace in the world, so that the mercy of God would accomplish that which is impossible for human efforts alone and so that the courage for dialogue and reconciliation would take root in people's hearts."

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, celebrated the Divine Mercy Sunday Mass in the Church of the Holy Spirit, the center of divine mercy devotions in Rome.

"Divided humanity needs peace and pardon," he said in his homily. "There is no true peace without forgiveness, and for this we must defuse the potential for hatred and war that is in us."

Opening one's heart to Christ and asking for his forgiveness and mercy is an essential step for renewing one's life and becoming a peacemaker, he said.

Sure of God's mercy, Cardinal Bertone said, people can look toward the future with hope and confidence.

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Copyright (c) 2007 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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