Because of adverse weather in Rome and of his recent illness, Pope John Paul II Feb. 23 addressed several thousand pilgrims who had gathered in the Paul VI Hall via a television link from his private library in the Vatican.

In his short address, the Holy Father exhorted the faithful to a special commitment to prayer, fasting and penance during the Lenten season, along with a special concern for the poor and the needy.

Afterwards, he greeted the faithful in several languages, expressing his desire that their visit to Rome would help them to grow in love for the universal Church.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is with great affection that I greet those of you who have gathered in this hall for the usual Wednesday meeting. I thank you deeply for your presence.
We have begun our Lenten journey with the help and inspiration of the liturgy, which exhorts us to make a special commitment to prayer, fasting and penance, along with a greater solidarity with our neighbor, especially the poor and the needy.

Let us open our hearts to the interior inspirations of grace.

May selfishness give way to love, so that we might be able to experience the joy of forgiveness and of a deep reconciliation with God and with our brothers and sisters.