The Holy See
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Your Most Reverend Excellency,

I am pleased to convey the Supreme Pontiff's cordial greeting to those taking part in the 55th National Liturgical Week at San Giovanni Rotondo, from 23 to 27 August.

The theme of the Meeting: Liturgy and Holiness, has special meaning for the journey of the Church in this period of history and is tied to what the Holy Father said in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte: all pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness (cf. n. 30).

In Liturgical Celebrations is made present one or other aspect of the mystery of Christ in which the human person can find constant energy and support for his journey on the path of Christian perfection. Through sacramental signs, we draw from the sources of salvation to be moulded and transformed until our lives conform to the life of Christ. Therefore, by bringing us into contact with the sacred mysteries, the liturgy invites us to strive for holiness, responding to the call of the Gospel to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (cf. Mt 5: 48).

"For this is the will of God, your sanctification" (I Thes 4: 3). Borrowing the famous words of the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians, the Pope reminds believers in Novo Millennio Ineunte of the universal vocation to holiness. In this regard he writes: "It is a duty which concerns not only certain Christians: "All the Christian faithful, of whatever state or rank, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity' (Lumen Gentium, n. 40)" (n. 30). Those whom Baptism has made holy must strive for a "high standard" of ordinary Christian living (cf. n. 31).

Also in Novo Millennio Ineunte, the Holy Father speaks opportunely of the widespread need for spirituality that is largely expressed in the need to rediscover the art of prayer and education in prayer (cf. nn. 32-34). The liturgy is a school of holiness because it helps transform life into prayer, both private and communal. Devout, conscious and active participation in the Mysteries which the liturgy celebrates unites us to Christ and enables us constantly "to start afresh from Christ".

It is primarily the Eucharist that gives to Christian holiness its true face. Pointing out to the Church the journey to take in the new millennium, the Pope writes: "Sharing in the Eucharist should really be the heart of Sunday for every baptized person. It is a fundamental duty, to be fulfilled not just in order to observe a precept but as something felt as essential to a truly informed and consistent Christian life" (Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 36).

The Eucharist is the source of holiness, the secret of the apostolate and of the new evangelization. Rightly, therefore, the Bishops of the Italian Church, in their recent document: The missionary face of parishes in a changing world, recall that the missionary option is born from a Eucharistic Church.

It is thus significant that the National Liturgical Week is taking place this year in a place which Padre Pio's presence has made familiar to thousands: San Giovanni Rotondo. Everything in the life and ministry of the humble Capuchin speaks of the bond that binds to holiness the liturgy and especially the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance. In fact, the secret of Padre Pio's perfect attachment to Christ lies in his daily celebration of the Eucharist and tireless ministry in the confessional.

Speaking to the pilgrims who had gathered in Rome for the beatification of the Friar from Pietrelcina, John Paul II said: "His stigmata, like those of Francis of Assisi, were the work and sign of divine mercy, which redeemed the world by the Cross of Jesus Christ.... Holy Mass was the heart of his whole day, the almost anxious concern of all his hours, his moment of closest communion with Jesus..." (Address to Pilgrims in Rome for the Beatification of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, n. 3, 3 May 1999; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 5 May 1999, p. 3).

May his example be an incentive and an encouragement to you all to take the same ascetic and spiritual path to the peaks of Gospel perfection.

The Supreme Pontiff wishes you great success with the work of the 55th National Liturgical Week and invokes upon it the motherly protection of Mary Most Holy and the intercession of St Pio of Pietrelcina, as he wholeheartedly imparts a special Apostolic Blessing to you, venerable Brother, to the Archbishop of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo, to the rapporteurs and all the participants in the meeting.

With a fraternal greeting, I am pleased to confirm that I remain yours devotedly in the Lord,

Cardinal Angelo Sodano,
Secretary of State