VATICAN CITY — The following is the text of the letter Pope John Paul II addressed Nov. 24 to Father Marcial Maciel, superior general of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ:

I am pleased to join spiritually in the joy and the thanksgiving that rise up to God, the source of all good, from you, Reverend Father, and from the hearts of all the members of this religious family on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of your priestly ordination on Nov. 26, 1944, in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. On that day you reached the goal of the priestly formation you undertook at 16 years of age, with the heartfelt dream of stirring up priests totally dedicated to proclaiming the Gospel and to improving the moral and social standards of the poorest and most marginalized brothers and sisters. This project of love for Christ, fidelity to the Church and service to mankind began in Mexico City on Jan. 3, 1941, with the birth of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, whose constitutions I definitively approved in 1983

Your 60 years of priestly life, Reverend Father,” the Pope said in his letter, “have been marked by outstanding spiritual and missionary fruitfulness, with various institutions and apostolates, such as the Regnum Christi Movement, the network of Mano Amiga schools for the poor, numerous schools and charitable institutions with the purpose of promoting the values of the family and the human person, and university centers for study and formation. Particularly worthy of mention are the Legionary priests’ apostolates and the entire congregation's commitment to providing integral formation for future diocesan priests, especially in Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum and the two Mater Ecclesiae international seminaries in Rome and Sao Paulo.

I cannot, of course, forget the service that you have rendered in these years to the Holy See, which has benefited on various occasions and manners by your generous and competent collaboration, whether during one of my apostolic trips or in the activity of branches of the Roman Curia.

The profound inspiration which has guided your educational, cultural, and pastoral action — an inspiration that you have transmitted as a precious treasure to the religious family you founded — has been the constant concern for an integral promotion of the person, and especially as regards the human formation, that as I had the opportunity to write in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, “when it is carried out in the context of an anthropology which is open to the full truth regarding the human person, leads to and finds itscompletion in spiritual formation” (No. 45).

Reverend Father, the joyful recollection of your 60th anniversary of priestly ordination falls during the Year of the Eucharist. This providential coincidence constitutes an invitation to meditate upon the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the Christian community and especially in the formation of future priests and in their subsequent dedication to ordained ministry. This is what I underlined in the previously cited document, recalling “the essential importance of the Eucharist for the priest's life and ministry and, as a result, in the spiritual formation of candidatesfor the priesthood” (No. 48).

For all the se reasons I am happy to join in with the canticle of praise and of thanksgiving to the Lord that rises up from many hearts for the “great things (see Luke 1:49) that the grace of God has accomplished in these 60 years of your intense, generous, and fruitful priestly ministry.

As I invoke a renewed outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that your priesthood may continue to bear abundant good fruits, I entrust you, dear Father Maciel, to the heavenly protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of priests, and I send you affectionately a special apostolic blessing, which I willingly extend to all the Legionaries of Christ, to the members of the Regnum Christi Movement, and to all who participate in the jubilee celebration.

From the Vatican, Nov. 24, 2004 Joannes Paulus II