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John Paul II, Pope of Divine Mercy, says Benedict XVI

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Vatican City (AsiaNews) — A moving reference to John Paul II as 'Pope of Divine Mercy' sparked applause among the tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's square for the Regina Caeli. "The mystery of God's merciful love was at the centre of the pontificate of my venerated predecessor," said Benedict XVI.

The Pope mentioned John Paul II's Encyclical Dives in Misericordia and his consecration of the shrine in Kraków (in 2002) devoted to the Divine Mercy.

Thanks to the Polish pope the traditional Low Sunday or Dominica In Albis, the Octave Day of Easter, became the 'Sunday of the Divine Mercy', "making the most of the spiritual experience of a humble nun, St. Faustina Kowalska," canonised by John Paul.

Benedict XVI also mentioned that "Providence decided that he [John Paul II] should die right on the eve of that day in the arms of Divine Mercy."

The theme and experience of the Divine Mercy refer to this Sunday's Gospel (Jn, 20: 19-31), which mentions the apparition of the Risen Jesus to the circle of disciples to show his nail marks and side.

"The holy marks in the hands, feet, and side are an inexhaustible source of faith, hope and love that each can draw from, especially the souls most thirsty for Divine Mercy," said the Pope.

Benedict XVI also stressed that from the apparition of the Risen Jesus to the disciples on "the evening of that first day of the week" (Jh, 20: 9), and then again "a week later" (Jh, 20: 2), comes the weekly cycle of Sunday mass we now know as the "Lord's day" and "encounter with the Risen Lord."

Relaxed and calm, the Pope sang the Regina Caeli, perhaps impressed by the very many pilgrims, estimated to be around 45,000 people.

At the end of the ceremony, his first greetings were in Greek and Russian to wish Happy Easter to the Orthodox Churches, which are celebrating Easter today.

"My best regards go to our brothers of the Eastern Churches, which are celebrating Easter today," Benedict XVI said.

"May the Risen Lord bring to all the gifts of His Light and Peace. Christos anesti! Christos vaskries!"

He added: "In the joyful atmosphere of this day I cannot forget that many of these [Orthodox] populations, in Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria, are suffering as a result of recent flooding.

"Through praying I am close to them and truly hope that with everyone's help they can quickly overcome these difficult moments."

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