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GREETINGS BY CARDINAL JOSEPH RATZINGER
TO JOHN PAUL II WITH A MESSAGE OF CONGRATULATIONS
AND BEST WISHES ON HIS 83rd BIRTHDAY

Sunday, 18 May 2003

Most Holy Father,

Today, on the occasion of your birthday, I would like to speak not only on behalf of all those present but of countless people scattered across the world, far beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church and even of the Christian world. I cordially express to you our gratitude for all you do, assuring you of our prayers and expressing the hope that God's goodness will go with you every day and light your path.

You are commemorating this day by celebrating with us and for us the holy Eucharist, in which Christ becomes present among us. From the inexhaustible source that flows from his heart he gives us life, life in abundance (cf. Jn 10: 10).

During this liturgy, you will enter four Blesseds of the Church into the Book of the Saints, thereby highlighting these people for us as guides in life. In them the fruit of Christ's sacrifice becomes visible: the grain of wheat that died did not remain solitary but yields many fruits down the centuries. In them, Christ shows himself as the One who lives on in the present, who continually calls men and women to imitate him and makes them holy: he conforms them to God. Through these persons the Kingdom of God enters the world, the light of life, which is opposed to the destruction of humankind by the work of the powers of evil.

In today's second reading, we will hear what makes saints holy, what the right path is for us all: "that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another" (1 Jn 3: 23). Believing and loving go together: communion with Christ leads to love and the shortest way to our neighbour is communion with Christ, who is closer to each one of us than each one of us is to himself.

Believing and loving: that is the programme of your Pontificate. Tirelessly, you show us the face of Christ, the face of the merciful Lord. Tirelessly, you lead us, starting out from Christ, to overcome the forces of hatred, the prejudices that separate, and to break down the walls intended to divide us (cf. Eph 2: 14).

In starting afresh from Christ (Novo Millenio Ineunte, n. 29), you help us find the way that leads to salvation. For this, we thank you wholeheartedly. May the Lord reward you as he rewards his faithful servants.

Most Holy Father, ad multus annos!

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