St. John Paul II
Word of Saint John Paul II, when he visited the Madonna in his Sanctuary
On June 29, 1991, Pope John Paul II visited our Sant’Alfonso church at the Esquiline and celebrated the Eucharist in front of Our Lady of Perpetual Assistance. In addition to the prayer in the Shrine, welcomed by a large number of faithful, the Holy Father conducted a truly familiar Pastoral Encounter with the Redemptorist community living in Via Merulana, Rome. The event was unforgettable. A great blessing for all of us connected to the Redemptorist Family and devotees of Our Lady of Perpetual Relief.
In his homily, the Pope said: I greet affectionately all of you, dear Brothers and Sisters, who are partakers of this liturgical celebration. I would particularly like to thank the General of Redemptorists, Father Juan M. Lasso de la Vega, the General Counselors, the Religious of this Community, and through you all the communities of your Institute scattered throughout the world. I express my sincere appreciation for the work you do, faithful to the teachings of Saint Alphonso, the singer of the “Glories of Mary”. And thank you to Madonna for the opportunity that today has given me to meet you under his blessing.
125 years have passed since April 26, 1866, when Pope Pius IX entrusted your institution with the spread of worship to the Virgin of Perpetual Assistance. Since then, you have not ceased to love this Byzantine icon, coming from the East and became a reference point for the faithful who come to pray in this temple.
As I wrote in my Apostolic Letter Duodecimumsaeculum (1987), “Today’s believer, like yesterday, must be helped in prayer and in the spiritual life with the vision of works that seek to express the mystery without concealing it” (John Paul II, Duodecimum saeculum, 11) The icon recalls the mystery of divine motherhood, and while inviting to trust, it enhances the role that the Virgin plays in the life of every believer. Mary is the mother of hope and goodness; mother of mercy and grace. “If God wants to redeem mankind,” says St. Alfonso Maria de ‘Liguori, inspired by St. Bernard, “he has put all the redemption value in Mary’s hand, because she gives it to her.” (Sant’Alfonso M. de ‘Liguori, Ascetic Works, Rome 1936, vol. VI, p.109).
In this icon, Mary relieves us of this value with the joyful announcement that the New Covenant is in you fully realized and by means of it is offered to all men. Jesus shakes his right hand, almost telling the first fruits of the redemption and witnessing the extraordinary way of cooperation of the Mother of God to the salvation of humanity. The Virgin’s eyes look to the people and irradiate on it the gift of divine grace (John Paul II).
To all of you, dear Brothers and Sisters, who are attending this sacred place, I say, take the inspiration from this celebration to renew your devotion to the Blessed Virgin of Perpetual Aid, which you can contemplate here. Do not forget that the Virgin occupies, after Christ, the highest and closest place to us “(Lumen Gentium, 56); and “is joined to all men in need of salvation” (ibid., 53).
Do not forget the words of St. Alphonsus Maria de ‘Liguori, who observes that “every good, every help, every grace that men have received and will receive from God in the future, everything has come and will be through intercession and through Mary “(Ascetic Works, idem, p. 110).
At the end of his homily, he prayed to the Holy Father: “Great sign of our hope, we call upon you! O Virgin of Perpetual Assistance, Holy Mother of the Redeemer; rescue your people, who will resuscitate; gives everyone the joy of walking toward the third millennium in the conscious and active solidarity with the poorest, announcing in a new and brave manner the Gospel of your Son, the foundation and culmination of every human coexistence, aspiring to true, just and true peace lasting. Like the Baby Jesus, whom we admire in this venerated icon, we too want to tighten your right. You do not lack power or goodness to help us in every need and need. The current one is your hour! Come, then, in our help, and be for all hope and hope, ‘Amen!’
After Mass: “I would like to say a very personal word about the mission Pope Pius IX entrusted to you. I remember that during the last war, during the Nazi occupation of Poland, I was a worker at a factory in Krakow. In the evening when I came home from the factory, I always stayed in a church, even that of the Redemptorists, who was on my way. In that church there was an image of Our Lady of Perpetual Assistance. I stopped there many times and not only because that church was on my way, but also because I found that very beautiful image.I continued to visit that church even when I was appointed Bishop, and then also by Cardinal. I have also given you many sermons and I have administered the Sacrament of Confirmation several times. It is understood, therefore, how, coming to this place, is as if you had made a journey in my past, in my youth. I rejoice in Divine Providence, I thank Madonna of Perpetual Relief, who has shown me Perpetual Relief in very difficult circumstances.