Vatican radio reports: Pope Benedict XVI launched an appeal for aid for quake victims in Turkey on Wednesday, at the end of a Liturgy of the World with faithful on the eve his pilgrimage to Assisi. Speaking in Italian he said: “At this time, our thoughts turn to the people of Turkey hard hit by the earthquake, which has caused heavy loss of life, many missing and extensive damage. I invite you to join me in prayer for those who have lost their lives and to be spiritually close to the many people who have been sorely tried. May the Almighty support all those engaged in rescue work”.
The Holy Father’s weekly General Audience this Wednesday had a special character: that of a prayer meeting in preparation for Thursday’s Day of Reflection and Prayer for Peace in Assisi. Inclement weather drove pilgrims inside for the prayer encounter, filling the Paul VI audience hall to capacity, with participants who could not be accommodated in the hall present in St Peter’s Basilica.
The Holy Father greeted the overflow pilgrims in the Basilica in several languages, including English: “I am pleased to receive you in Saint Peter’s Basilica and to extend a warm welcome to all of you who could not be accommodated in the Audience Hall. Always stay faithfully united to Christ and bear joyful witness to the Gospel. To all of you I cordially impart my Blessing”.
The Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Agostino Vallini presented the pilgrims, praising the Holy Father for his constant commitment, in the Name of God, to building bridges of friendship among peoples, cultures and states, healing the wounds of division and promoting reconciliation and concord.
“For this,” said Cardinal Vallini, “all the people taking part desire to make themselves ‘pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace’.”
The readings, from the Book of the Prophet Zechariah and from the Gospel according to St Luke, as well as the responsorial psalm – taken from Psalm 84, each spoke in its own way of true peace as a gift of the True God, whose saving action has signed human history indelibly.
In his homily, Pope Benedict XVI said the Kingdom of Peace in which Christ is the king. “It is,” he said, “a realm that extends across the whole Earth.”
“Dear brothers and sisters,” said Pope Benedict: “[A]s Christians we want to ask God for the gift of peace, we pray that He make us instruments of peace in a world still torn by hatred, by divisions, by selfishness, by war. We ask that the meeting Thursday in Assisi might encourage dialogue among people of different religious affiliations and bring a ray of light that might illuminate the minds and hearts of all men, so that rancor will give way to pardon, division to reconciliation, hatred and violence to love and gentleness: that peace reign in the world”.
The Holy Father also had English greetings for pilgrims in Paul VI Hall: “I am happy to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today. I ask you to accompany me in prayer as I journey tomorrow to Assisi for the celebration of the Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World, together with representatives of different religions. I extend special greetings to the pilgrims from the Diocese of Niigata in Japan celebrating their centenary. I also welcome those present from England, Denmark, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam and the United States. May Almighty God bless all of you!”.