Canonization in St. Peter's Square in the Presence of 200,000 Pilgrims

 "With Faustina Kowalska, the great message of Divine Mercy penetrates the sufferings of the 20th century to reach the Christians of the new millennium," John Paul II said this morning, when opening the solemn ceremony for the canonization of the Polish nun, in the presence of some 200,000 pilgrims.

Faustina is the first saint of the Jubilee, although her history is totally connected to the century that we are leaving behind, noted for the immense sufferings caused by two Word Wars. It was precisely between these two catastrophic events that Faustina received the message of Divine Mercy from Christ.

The Holy Father described her as a bridge of hope between the past and future. Her spirituality attracted him during his youth; today he
solemnly proposed her as an example to the whole Church. On a beautiful spring morning, St. Peter's Square was filled to capacity, with pilgrims and devotees of Sr. Faustina spilling over into the Via della Conciliazione. Americans and Poles formed the largest groups, though there were many Italians, as well as representatives from other parts of the world. Hundreds of thousands more followed the ceremony live from a field outside the Shrine of the Divine Mercy on Lagiewniki Hill in Krakow.

"This is not a new message, but it can be considered as a day of special illumination that helps us live the Easter Gospel more intensely, to offer it as a ray of light to the men and women of our time," the Holy Father said, in explaining the meaning and value of the devotion to the Divine Mercy, which inspired Sister Faustina, and which today has millions of followers around the world. The Pope announced that, in her honor, throughout the world, "the second Sunday after Easter will be designated Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine goodness, the difficulties and trials that await humankind in the coming years."

"A hymn to mercy," is the way the Pope described the life of this nun, hidden in a convent and consumed by love for her neighbor, a love made up of the gift of self which, according to the Pontiff, can only be learned in the school of God, in the warmth of his charity. From this perspective, the Holy Father emphasized that mercy is implicitly a message on the value of every person, and is well expressed by Jesus' radiant heart in the image propagated by St. Faustina. "But, above all, such an image is the symbol of the consolation that is ready to go out to the one who is weakened by pain or sin, and is tempted to be abandoned to despair," John Paul II said.

The Holy Father then sang the "Regina Caeli" with a strong voice and greeted pilgrims in a variety of languages, unwilling to overlook any group. Then, seated before a monitor, he was greeted and thanked by the Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow, who spoke from the Shrine at Lagiewniki, a Shrine that young Wojtyla visited daily before going to work in the Solvay factory. Two huge crowds in Rome and Krakow, following one another on enormous screens, greeted John Paul II with multicolored handkerchiefs, and sang the song dedicated to him on his last visit to his homeland. John Paul II, who was in good form today after a week of vacation, appeared overwhelmed as he gazed upon the sea of waving colors that united Poland to the entire Church.