The audience in a crowded Paul VI Hall was part of the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the priestly ordination of Father Marcial Maciel.
In his address delivered in Italian, the Pope expressed his "affectionate greeting" to Father Maciel, and imparted to him a "special apostolic blessing."
"There is a need today more than ever for a confident proclamation of the Gospel which, casting aside all crippling fears, announces with intellectual depth and with courage the truth about God, about man, and about the world," the Holy Father said.
The audience was attended by 59 newly ordained Legionary priests. The 59, who hail from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Chile and Vietnam, were ordained last Thursday by Archbishop Franc Rodé, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
To fulfill their evangelizing mission, the Holy Father said in his greeting that "it is indispensable to cultivate a constant intimacy with Christ, seeking to follow and imitate him with docility."
"In this way, you will always be ready to respond to the most authentic and profound expectations of the men and women of our time," he added.
"May the Year of the Eucharist, which began in October, be for you a propitious occasion to grow in Eucharistic love, source and summit of the whole Christian life," the Pope continued. "Remain united around the Eucharist! Faithful to the charism that distinguishes you, continue your evangelizing mission nourishing yourselves of Christ and making yourselves his intrepid witnesses."
At the end of the audience, the orchestra of the Legionaries' Center of Higher Studies in Rome played and sang some of the Pope's favorite songs, among them "Amigo," a Roberto Carlos composition that has become the theme song of several of the Holy Father's visits to Mexico and elsewhere in the Americas.
They also sang Cesareo Garabain's "Fisher of Men," a song that, as John Paul II mentioned during his last trip to Poland, has accompanied him during his papacy. It was sung to him when he left Krakow to attend the conclave that would elect him Pope.
The Legion of Christ was founded in Mexico in 1941 by the then 20-year-old Marcial Maciel. Its statutes were approved by John Paul II in 1983. The congregation has more than 600 priests and close to 2,500 seminarians.
The Regnum Christi Movement, whose statutes have just been approved by the Holy Father, has some 65,000 members: laypeople, consecrated members, and deacons and priests.