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Dear Brothers and Sisters:
1. The Holy Virgin has allowed me to honor her again in this famous shrine, which Providence inspired in Blessed Bartolo Longo, so that it would be a center to radiate the holy rosary.
Today's visit is, in a certain sense, the crowning of the Year of the Rosary. I thank the Lord for the fruits of this Year, which has caused a significant return to this prayer, simple but profound, which touches the heart of the Christian faith and is extremely relevant, given the challenges of the third millennium and the urgent commitment to the new evangelization.
2. In Pompeii, this relevance is highlighted in a particular way in the context of the ancient Roman city, buried under the ashes of Vesuvius in A.D. 79. These ruins speak. They pose the decisive question on the destiny of man. They are testimony of a great culture of which they reveal, along with luminous answers, disturbing questions. The Marian city is born at the heart of these questions, presenting the risen Christ as the answer, as the Gospel that saves.
Today, as at the time of ancient Pompeii, it is necessary to proclaim Christ to a society which is moving away from Christian values, even the memory of which is being lost. I thank the Italian authorities for having contributed to the organization of my pilgrimage, started in the ancient city. In this way, I have crossed over a bridge that establishes a fruitful dialogue for cultural and spiritual growth. With ancient Pompeii as the backdrop, the proposal of the rosary acquires the historical value of a new thrust to the Christian proclamation in our time.
What, in fact, is the rosary? A compendium of the Gospel. It makes us return to the principal scenes of the life of Christ, as though allowing us to "breathe" its mystery. The rosary is a privileged way of contemplation. It is, so to speak, the way of Mary, for who knows and loves Christ better than she?
Blessed Bartolo Longo, apostle of the rosary, was convinced of this; he paid special attention to the contemplative and Christological character of the rosary. Thanks to the blessed, Pompeii has become an international center of spirituality of the rosary.
3. I wanted my pilgrimage to be a prayer for peace. We have meditated on the mysteries of light, as though wishing to project the light of Christ on the conflicts, tensions and dramas of the five continents. In the apostolic letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae" I explained that the rosary is a prayer oriented, by its very nature, to peace. Not only because it leads us to pray it, supported by the intercession of Mary, but also because it makes us assimilate, together with the mystery of Jesus, his plan for peace.
At the same time, with the serene rhythm of the repetition of the Hail Mary, the rosary floods our spirit with peace and opens it to saving grace. Blessed Bartolo Longo had a prophetic intuition when he decided to add this facade, as a monument to peace, to the church dedicated to the Virgin of the rosary. Thus the cause of peace is an integral part of the rosary. It was an intuition of great importance for the beginning of this millennium, scourged by winds of war and watered by blood in many regions of the world.
4. The invitation to pray the rosary inspired at Pompeii, crossroads of people of all cultures attracted both by the shrine as well as the archaeological ruins, also evokes the commitment of Christians, in cooperation with all men of good will, to be builders and witnesses of peace. May civil society, represented here by the authorities and personalities whom I cordially greet, increasingly accept this message. May the ecclesial community of Pompeii, whose different components I greet -- priests, deacons, consecrated persons, in particular the Dominican Daughters of the Holy Rosary, founded precisely for the mission of this shrine, the laity -- be increasingly up to the measure of this challenge. I thank Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino for his kind words to me at the beginning of this meeting. With affection I thank all of you, devotees of the Queen of the rosary of Pompeii. Be "agents of peace," following in the footsteps of Blessed Bartolo Longo, who knew how to combine prayer and action, making of this Marian city a citadel of charity. May the incipient Center for Children and the Family, which has graciously been named after me, accept the legacy of this great work.
Dear Brothers and Sisters: May the Virgin of the holy rosary bless us, while we prepare to invoke her with our prayer. We present our concerns and good intentions to her Mother's heart.
[The Pope then recited the prayer for peace. Before imparting his final apostolic blessing, he expressed this greeting:]
Thank you, thank you, Pompeii. Thank you to all the pilgrims for this warm and most beautiful welcome. Thank you to the cardinals and bishops present. Thank you to the authorities of the country, of the region, of the city. Thank you for the enthusiasm of the young people. Thank you all. Pray for me in this shrine, today and always.
[Translation by ZENIT]