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JOHN PAUL II ENTRUSTS THIRD MILLENNIUM TO MARY

Ceremony Before the Statue of the Virgin of Fatima

VATICAN CITY, (ZENIT.org).- In a moving ceremony, and with 1,500 bishops on hand, John Paul II entrusted humanity and the third millennium to the protection of the Virgin Mary. 
The Pope pronounced the solemn words before the original image of the Virgin of Fatima, which was
brought to St. Peter's Square for the occasion. In the statue's crown was the bullet that almost ended the Pope's life on May 13, 1981. 
St. Peter's Square was a sea of people. The statue of Fatima was received with enthusiastic applause, brought in procession and followed by John Paul II. The Holy Father was visibly moved by the event. 
During the homily at the concelebrated Mass, John Paul II described the scene of faith and prayer unfolding before him as a "great cenacle." He first addressed the bishops who were celebrating their special Jubilee. 
"Given the relativism and subjectivism that contaminate a large part of contemporary culture, bishops are called to defend and promote the doctrinal unity of their faithful," the Holy Father said. 
"Attentive to every situation where the faith is lost or ignored," he added, "bishops work with all their strength in favor of evangelization, preparing priests, religious and laity with this objective in mind." 
The most awaited moment came at the end, which Vatican Radio described as the "zenith" of the Holy Year. At noon, the pontiff pronounced the act of entrustment of all humanity to the Virgin Mary at the dawn of the third millennium. 
The Pope spoke on behalf of all the world's pastors when he asked Mary for her maternal protection, confidently imploring her intercession given the challenges the future holds. 
"Today we wish to entrust to you the future that awaits us, and we ask you to be with us on our way," he said. "We are the men and women of an extraordinary time, exhilarating yet full of contradictions. 
"Humanity now has instruments of unprecedented power: We can turn this world into a garden, or reduce it to a pile of rubble. We have devised the astounding capacity to intervene in the very wellsprings of life: Man can use this power for good, within the bounds of the moral law, or he can succumb to the shortsighted pride of a science that accepts no limits, but tramples on the respect due to every human being. 
"Today, as never before in the past, humanity stands at a crossroads. And, once again, O Virgin Most Holy, salvation lies fully and uniquely in Jesus, your Son." 
The Holy Father entrusted all humanity to the Mother of God, beginning with the weakest: "the babies
yet unborn, and those born into poverty and suffering, the young in search of meaning, the unemployed, and those suffering hunger and disease. We entrust to you all troubled families, the elderly with no one to help them, and all who are alone and without hope." 
"O Mother," he said, "you know the sufferings and hopes of the Church and the world: Come to the
aid of your children in the daily trials that life brings to each one, and grant that, thanks to the efforts of all, the darkness will not prevail over the light."
 At the end, when the Virgin of Fatima was taken to St. Peter's Basilica, John Paul II greeted the thousands of waving pilgrims from his "popemobile." However, the great majority did not leave the square. 
Thousands waited as long as was necessary, in some cases for hours, to be able to see the statue of Our Lady of Fatima before it returns to Portugal on Monday. 

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