Curia prays for the Pope's health in St Peter's Basilica
In his message at the conclusion of the Spiritual Exercises, John Paul II says the Eucharist gives the strength for the daily dedication to the tasks of the Church.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – This morning the entire Roman Curia participated in the mass that brought to a close Spiritual Exercises of Lent.

As tradition demanded, the mass took place in the chapel of the Apostolic Palace in the presence of the Pope. But this year, the Pope did not take part in the liturgy because of his illness.

At the end of the mass, Mgr Leonardo Sandri, Substitute of the Secretariat of State, read a message from the Pope to this year's preacher for the Spiritual Exercises Mgr Renato Corti, Bishop of Novara (Italy). In it, John Paul II expressed his "most cordial gratitude" and stressed that "this week of silence and intense prayer" came to a close with a mass since it coincides with the Year of the Eucharist.

For the Pope, this year's theme—The Church at the Service of the New and Eternal Covenant—echoes the "words of the Lord Jesus at the conclusion of the Last Supper when he offered the Apostles the Holy Chalice". "These words," he said, "we ministers of the altar repeat every time we celebrate the Holy Mass".

The Church, the message noted, lives in the Eucharist "because from that Blood comes the daily commitment to the tasks connected to announcing the Gospel". 

During the mass, the entire assembly prayed for John Paul II's health who was hospitalised from February 1 to the 10 for respiratory problems.

Mgr Corti prayed for the Pope, so that "his health may sustain him to carry on the great and wonderful task God assigned him".

The Bishop also thanked John Paul II for giving him this year the "opportunity" to preach the Spiritual Exercises of Lent and the chance "to live close to him and those who in the Universal Church have a particular responsibility in announcing the Gospel".

During the prayer of the faithful, prayers were said for John Paul II because "with the example of his life, continuously given for the good of everyone, [he] may be a living image of the goodness and mercy of the Celestial Father and loved and listened to by all with filial affection". 

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