The Holy See
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Cathedral of Ancona
Saturday, 4 May 2002


Your Excellency,
Distinguished religious and civil authorities,
Brothers and sisters in the Lord,

1. On the solemn day of St Cyriacus, Patron of this local Church, I am pleased to greet you most warmly while the memory of the martyr St Dasius unites the ecclesial communities of Ancona-Osimo, Bulgaria and Rome. I would like first of all to convey to you the greeting of the Holy Father, who has charged me to express his deep gratitude and spiritual closeness in this solemn ceremony.

Special thanks are due to Archbishop Franco Festorazzi of Ancona-Osimo, the Vicar General, the Director of the Diocesan Museum and everyone who generously made possible the gift of the relic of St Dasius, which is an important gesture of peace, communion and ecclesial life. I respectfully greet the Mayor of this beautiful city, the President of the Region, the Prefect of Ancona, the President of the Province and the distinguished political authorities of the Magistracy, of the Security Forces, of the Army and of the Navy.

The relics of saints, witnesses of the Christian faith, especially in the case of a martyr saint, are very important for the life of the Church since they contribute in a special way to sustaining and nourishing the faith and devotion of believers. At the same time, because of its particular history, this relic of St Dasius which left Bulgaria and reached Ancona via Constantinople, has the special character of a sign of that communion which should certainly be safeguarded and fostered between the Orthodox Chuch of Bulgaria and the Catholic Church of Rome.

Spiritual triangle between Sofia, Ancona, Rome

This ancient and important sign of faith and communion is now offered to the Holy Father by the Archdiocese of Ancona-Osimo so that he may present it as a gift to Patriarch Maxim on the occasion of his forthcoming visit to Bulgaria and the 1,700th anniversary of the death of St Dasius.

In this way a thread of ecclesial solidarity is created a spiritual triangle between Sofia, Ancona and Rome, bound by the power of St Dasius' martyrdom. After being presented to the Pope, the holy relic will travel from Rome to Bulgaria, completing the same journey which, many centuries ago, brought it here where it was welcomed, honoured and offered for the veneration of the faithful down the ages. Thus the sentiment of brotherhood and unity of the Church in Ancona-Osimo with Rome and with Bulgaria is founded precisely on the same love and the same veneration for the holy martyr Dasius.

Ecumenical nature of Papal visit

2. The Holy Father's visit to Bulgaria will have a deeply ecumenical character. It is well known that Bulgaria is a country with an Orthodox majority. Therefore the journey the Pope will make to that ancient and noble nation will be under the banner of ecumenism. The act of communion we are initiating here in Ancona and which will culminate in Bulgaria therefore has a deeply ecumenical value in the context of the Pope's visit. It is also a sign of love and partiality for the Church who lives and works in Bulgaria and for the entire Bulgarian people.

Ecumenism has to include the witness of martyrs

When we speak of commitment to Christian unity, we immediately think of an "ecumenism" that consists above all of meetings between individuals and groups of believers, of theological dialogues, of prayer services and celebrations in common. All these things are very good and important but there is also another "ecumenism", which is just as important for the journey of all Christ's disciples toward full communion. This "ecumenism" is made up of practical gestures, significant events, life experiences. Martyrdom is one of these extremely important and profoundly impressive events. With the supreme witness of the gift of his life, the martyr invites us to overcome the obstacles that are due to human frailty, to open the doors of our hearts to total support for the Saviour and his Church and encourages us to walk speedily down the roads of true ecumenism and peace.

Invitation to Ecumenical Heart

3. This relic of St Dasius, which is now leaving Ancona for Rome and will later accompany the Holy Father on his visit to Bulgaria, is also an invitation to us to have a truly ecumenical heart, to love Christ, the truth of the Gospel and the unity of all Christians passionately.

Let us commend to the holy martyr St Dasius, who was the glory first of Bulgaria then of Ancona and now, also of Rome, the journey of the Successor of Peter to that beloved country. Let us ask St Dasius to continue to protect the Christian communities of Ancona-Osimo, of Rome and our brethren in Bulgaria, so that they may respond ever more generously to the grace of God, be faithful to the mission of witnessing to the Gospel, and contribute to the development of peace among peoples and nations.

May St Dasius watch over the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, intercede for the Church in Rome, in Bulgaria and in Ancona-Osimo, and pray for us all!