OCTOBER 5, 1997

Holy Father,

In the name of the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, in the name of this great multitude of people who have come from all over Brazil, from Latin America and from the five continents, I wish to greet your Holiness with joy. The Catholics are grateful for the presence among us of the Universal Pastor. The men of good will, here present, rejoice at the visit of the Pope who is the Apostle of the Family in the whole world, the defender of life, or peace and of harmony among people.

The Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Religious men and women, Consecrated lay people and the laity in general wish to profess a commitment of sincere obedience and fidelity. We, Catholics or not, civil authorities, believers in other faiths or without the grace of faith, are grateful for your generous commitment to the good of Humanity. We wish to unite ourselves to the efforts which your Holiness constantly makes to strengthen family ties and join our wills to yours in resisting the destructive forces of evil.

The presence of the Holy Father is a call upon our Catholic faith. Your person, Holy Father, joins us mysteriously to the saving plan of God.

In the face of evil shepherds, God reveals, through the prophet Ezekiel, his surprising plan: "I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it (...) I myself shall pasture my sheep" (Ezk 34:11-15).

However, by divine design, Jesus desired that his pastoral care be constantly visible and operating in his apostles and their successors.From among the Twelve there was one that Jesus wished to be closer to Himself. To entrust the sheep to him, as St. Augustine says, Jesus "wished to make him one with himself, so that he would be the head, like the husband in relation to the wife". (Reading from the Breviary, Friday of the 25th week)

In your person, Holy Father, we behold the visible representation of the Supreme Shepherd who is God in Jesus Christ. That is why these people love the Pope so much. In the person of your Holiness, the Church is divinely guided. Established by the Word of Jesus. John Paul II is the visible principle of the unity of the whole Church. A pastor, or minister of the Catholic Church who did not remain in union with Peter, would disperse the flock, he would destroy the unity so desired by God. Every member of the faithful, with ineffable gratitude, can be sure that in the communion with Peter, that is, in the communion with John Paul II, the happy and obedient communion with God is guaranteed, with that God who said, "I myself shall take care of my sheep: (...) I will raise up a shepherd who shall pasture my flock" (Ezk 34:11-23)

Holy Father, as Pastor of the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, I ask you: please guide us, please shepherd this flock, so that all of us, shepherds and people, obedient to your word, may belong more and more fully to Christ Jesus, Good Shepherd and Mediator between heaven and earth.

Bless us, Holy Father!

r e t u r n

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