Dear brothers and sisters: I have just returned from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, a hundred years after their independence; three countries which suffered under the yoke of Nazi and then Soviet occupation. The purpose of my visit was to announce once again the joy of the Gospel and the revolution of mercy and tenderness, because freedom alone cannot give full meaning to life without love, God’s love. In times of trial, the Gospel strengthens and sustains the fight for freedom. In times of liberty it is the salt which gives every-day life its flavour and prevents the corruption of mediocrity and egoism. At the meeting with young people in Vilnius there was a palpable presence of Jesus Christ our hope. And in Riga, with the elderly, I underlined the connection between patience and hope which sustains us. This same hope enables priests, consecrated men and women and seminarians to persevere and enabled many martyrs to bear witness to God. The years have passed and different regimes have come and gone, but at Vilnius, above the Gate of Dawn, Mary the Mother of Mercy continues to watch over her people as a sign of sure hope and consolation. In the three celebrations of Mass at Kaunas, Aglona and Tallinn, the faithful, in whose hearts God reawakened the grace of Baptism, were able to renew their “yes” to Christ who is our hope.
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly the groups from England, Scotland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Nigeria, South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Canada and the United States of America. In a particular way my greeting goes to the new seminarians of the Venerable English College as they begin their priestly formation here in Rome, and to the seminarians of the Pontifical North American College and their families gathered for the ordination to the Diaconate to be celebrated tomorrow. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless you!