Excerpts from Pope John Paul II's homily in San Antonio:

. . . In Jesus Christ the world has truly known the mystery of forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation, which is proclaimed by God's word this day. At the same time, God's inexhaustible mercy to us obliges us to be reconciled among ourselves. This makes practical demands on the church in Texas and the Southwest of the United States. It means bringing hope and love wherever there is division and alienation. Your history registers a meeting of cultures, indigenous and immigrant, sometimes marked by tensions and conflicts, yet constantly moving toward reconciliation and harmony.

People of different races and languages, colors and customs, have come to this land to make it their home. Together with the indigenous peoples of these territories, there are the descendants of those who came from almost every country in Europe: from Spain and France, from Germany and Belgium, from Italy, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, from Ireland, England and Scotland, and even from my own native Poland -- for it was to Texas, and Panna Maria, that the first Polish immigrants came to the United States. There are descendants of those who came in chains from Africa; those from Lebanon, the Philippines and Vietnam, and from every Latin American country, especially from Mexico.

This land is a crossroads, standing at the border of two great nations, and experiencing both the enrichment and the complications which arise from this circumstance. You are thus a symbol and a kind of laboratory testing America's commitment to her founding moral principles and human values. These principles and values are now being reaffirmed by America, as she celebrates the bicentennial of her Constitution and speaks once more about justice and freedom, and about the acceptance of diversity within a fundamental unity -- a unity arising from a shared vision of the dignity of every human person, and a shared responsibility for the welfare of all, especially of the needy and the persecuted.

Against this background one may speak of a current phenomenon here and elsewhere -- the movement of people northwards, not only from Mexico but from other southern neighbors of the United States. On this matter also there is work of reconciliation to be done. Among you there are people of great courage and generosity who have been doing much on behalf of suffering brothers and sisters arriving from the south. They have sought to show compassion in the face of complex human, social and political realities.

Here human needs, both spiritual and material, continue to call out to the church with thousands of voices, and the whole church must respond by the proclamation of God's word and by selfless deeds of service. Here, too, there is ample space for continuing and growing collaboration among members of the various Christian communions.

In all of this, the Hispanic community itself faces the greatest challenge. Those of you of Hispanic descent -- so numerous, so long present in this land, so well equipped to respond -- are called to hear the word of Christ and take it to heart: "I give you a new commandment: love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other." And Jesus specified that this love embraces the entire range of human needs from the least to the greatest: "I promise you that whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these lowly ones . . . will not want for his reward."

The Hispanic community also needs to respond to its own needs, and to show generous and effective solidarity among its own members. I urge you to hold fast to your Christian faith and traditions, especially in defense of the family. And I pray that the Lord may provide many more vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life among your young people.