VATICAN CITY, 2 JUL 2011 (VIS) - At the end of a luncheon today, offered by the College of Cardinals to the Pope to mark the sixtieth anniversary of his ordination as a priest, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College, congratulated the Holy Father and, in the name of all those present, gave him an offering for the poor of Rome, the Pope's own diocese, "in view", he said, "of the urgent needs of so many Romans, as well as of numerous immigrants and refugees".

The Holy Father, having thanked the cardinals for their gift, made some remarks. "This is a moment of gratitude for the Lord's guidance; for everything He has given me and forgiven me over these years", he said. "Yet it is also a moment to remember. In 1951 the world was completely different: there was no television, there was no internet, there were no computers, there were no mobile phones. The world from which we come truly seems prehistoric. Above all, our cities were in ruins, the economy destroyed, there was great material and spiritual poverty. Yet there was also a great energy and a will to rebuild this country and to renew ... the community on the foundation of our faith".

"Then came Vatican Council II where all the hopes we had seemed to come true. This was followed by the cultural revolution of 1968, difficult years during which the ship of the Lord appeared to be taking on water, almost about to sink. Nonetheless the Lord, Who seemed then to be sleeping, was present and He led us forward. Those were the unforgettable years in which I worked alongside Blessed Pope John Paul II. Finally, came the unexpected day of 19 April 2005 when the Lord called me to a new task and, only by virtue of His strength, abandoning myself to Him, was I able at that moment to say 'yes'.

"Over these sixty years nearly everything has changed; but the Lord's faithfulness has remained", the Holy Father added in conclusion. "He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. This is our certainty, which shows us the way to the future. The time to remember, the time of gratitude, is also the time of hope".